i-D Gardener in Residence Scarlett Cannon digs out the roots of Hallowe’en and celebrates all things spooky.
Click images to enlarge.
The most important Sabbat of the year, Samhain marks the beginning and the end of the Wheel of the Year, much like New Year in the regular calendar. Samhain is associated with death and the spirits of the dead, and in the modern world we celebrate Hallowe’en with all things ‘spooky’.
There would have always been a marvellous feast to celebrate Samhain; a last opportunity for fresh food until life begins again in the spring. This is the time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is very thin and the spirits of the dead are able to return to their loved ones on earth. The tradition of placing a lighted candle in the window to guide the spirits home is the origin of the Hallowe’en pumpkin lantern. If you’ve been a lucky gardener this year and your pumpkin and squash crop haven’t been decimated by slugs and snails or persistent rain then they should be just about ripe. The flesh of good, organic and/or home-grown pumpkins is delicious in soups, curries, and sweet or savoury pies. You won’t get much to eat from a supermarket version.
In the distant past this was the last chance to take stock of winter supplies and prepare for survival. Only the strongest animals would be kept through the winter as animal feed was precious, and those unlikely to live through the cold of winter would be slaughtered and their meat preserved to provide sustenance in the lean, dark months. It’s said that elderly tribe members would not eat so that that the younger and fitter of their tribes would be able to, ensuring the survival of their people. These days we don’t have to go to such extremes, and if you’ve planned ahead there is a good selection of crops that can be grown through the winter, though many of them are quite spicy. Land cress has a stronger flavour than its water-grown relative but is tough and can survive deep snow. Oriental vegetables such as Mizuna, Mibuna, Mustard Greens and Komatsuna all do well in cold temperatures. Winter lettuces can still be sown now, as can Lambs Lettuce, but be quick! Cavolo Nero, or Italian black kale, can be picked through the winter, as can the more common kale varieties. All of these can be a useful source of fresh, home-grown vegetables when little else is available.
If you’re planning ahead for next year then now is the time to plant your onion sets and garlic bulbs, and to sow some broad beans that will overwinter and provide a good early crop next spring. A gardener’s work is never done.
Enjoy your pumpkins, carve your jack-o’-lanterns and welcome the spirits into your homes and lives. Happy Hallowe’en.
Text and Photography: Scarlett Cannon
From top: Mixed pumpkins; Land cress; Corn salad; Mizuna; Marina di Chioggia pumpkins; Wheel of the year calendar.