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Polka dot DIY Pumpkin Lanters

Polka dot DIY Pumpkin Lanters

Get creative in the garden and make your own Jack O Lantern-polkadot style 
I always forget how much I adore October. With days getting shorter and the evening darkness coming earlier, I can finally light my fire and enjoy the crackle of timber burning. Outside in the garden the final leaves are falling off the trees and the mornings are often misty and moody, making me want to sip pumpkin spiced coffee and wrap myself in cashmere scarves.
Of course, October is also the month of Halloween, with its spooky connotations, trick or treating and pumpkins.
I love cooking with pumpkins and grew a few different varieties in my own garden this year, so to get in the sprit of this weekend’s Halloween preparations, I decided to get a little creative with a few of the best. This is a great project to do with kids as they love to get stuck into the messiness of pumpkins and the effect is so ambient when lit up.
Here are the steps to creating your gorgeous glowing pumpkins. 

What you need:
  • A large pumpkin or a few smaller ones. I sourced some of mine from my garden and some from the Organic centre in Leitrim but you can get the large pumpkins and many small varieties of gourds in most supermarkets during October.
  • A hand held drill and matching drill bits. Ideally you will need a lightweight drill which is easy to hold and is battery powered such as this Bosch one, the size of which is just right so that it’s not too heavy and you can take it outside-this project gets a little messy so I would advise an outdoor location if possible. 
  • Tea light candles. Alternatively you could use battery operated tea lights. You may need a few more but they are safer if left unattended.
  • A small spoon for carving out the centre of the pumpkins after drilling. 
  • A sharp knife which slices easily through the tough pumpkin skin. 
Preparing your pumpkins
  • The first step is to take the bottom out of the pumpkin using the knife. Basically you want the pumpkin to sit up again when you turn it over without it seeming like there is a hole in the bottom. It does however need to be big enough to get your hand in to scoop out the fibre and seeds inside as well as use your spoon to thin out the flesh.
  • Now you can see that there is lots of fibrous flesh and seeds inside the pumpkin. Using your hands, scoop out as much as possible. Then take your spoon and try to clean out the inside of the pumpkin as much as you can. Don’t thin out the skin too much at this point as you want it to be firm for drilling. 

Now comes the exciting part. I decided to create randomly placed circles using the drill all over the pumpkin. This gives a lovely effect when lit up at night. You can really do any design that you like but just remember the more holes there are the more effective the lantern. I used varying drill sizes-the drill bit kit I had included lots of different sizes. I used the 10mm and the 22mm and created varying holes all over the pumpkin. When it comes to the larger drill bits try to do the initial drill very gently and when that is carved-push it in fully. This will ensure a very neat and clean drilled hole.

  • When you are happy with your design I would advise rinsing the pumpkin under water to get rid of all the extra flesh bits inside and those stuck in the drill holes. This will give a cleaner effect.
  • The last step in the pumpkin lantern is to take your spoon and thin out the inside of the pumpkin a little. Thinning it out means that the actual orange of the pumpkin glows more. Don’t thin it out too much though-you don’t want the skin to start bending. Often the inside flesh is very thick and you can keep this flesh and make a delicious pumpkin soup with it or even roast it in the oven which is delicious. My pumpkin was so big I did both! I also roasted the pumpkin seeds and they are great and super healthy sprinkled over the soup.

So now you have a lovely and truly stylish lantern to brighten up your October table top or Halloween doorstep. There are so decorative. When placing and displaying them, I love combining them with smaller pumpkins or gourds (which are generally inedible) such as the white or green ones. Happy creating! 


Growing Pumpkins 

There is something incredibly satisfying about growing your own pumpkins. This year I grew a fabulous variety which had highly scented flowers and left me with a generous harvest of juicy, sweet pumpkin for the kitchen. Our climate is actually a very suitable one to grow pumpkins- or Cucurbita pepo in latin- and if given the right conditions you can have an amazing harvest.

If you fancy growing some yourself it’s a great thing to do with children, who find it fascinating to see the pumpkins grow throughout the year to be finally harvested for Halloween carving. You can sow pumpkins indoors on a window sill or in a greenhouse in April or early May and then transplant them outside in May or early June. The pumpkin plant will thrive in a sunny spot and loves well drained but moist soil. It will also love some well rotten manure as this plant grows fast and needs plenty of nutrients! Harvest the pumpkin when it starts to turn orange and it will deepen more in colour even when taken off the plant.  You can grow many varieties this way and there are numerous  smaller gourd varieties are actually fantastic for ornamental purposes such as the white and green ones in the picture. Unfortunately these generally can’t be eaten. 

Fun fact:
The carving of lanterns worldwide from vegetables is actually a very ancient one. Gourds were probably the earliest vegetable to be domesticated by humans and they are thought to have been used carved into lanterns about 10,000 years ago! Evidence shows that the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand used gourds to make lamps about 700 years ago and the name for gourd in Māori language is even the same as lampshade! 

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