Get Your Pumpkin On

By Jen Munson, Education Chair, The Herb Society of America

stingy-jackU.S. growers produce approximately 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins each year with the majority of them being used for carving. My hometown of Portsmouth, NH, does its best to adopt its fair share of this valuable member of the Cucurbitaceae family. You know for certainty that Halloween is just around the corner when jack-o’-lanterns appear on doorsteps and creatures topped with carved pumpkin heads adorn lamp posts.

Today’s pumpkin carving craze may have had its start in Irish folklore. Legend described a trickster name Stingy Jack who tormented everyone including the Devil. When it was Stingy Jack’s time to cross the pearly gates of heaven God wouldn’t accept him because of his antics. The Devil wouldn’t welcome him and instead gave him an ember with an eternal flame from hell. Stingy Jack placed the ember in a carved turnip to light his way through eternal darkness. The Irish referred to this ghostly figure as “jack-of-the-lantern” and later just “jack-o’-lantern.”

The Irish and Scottish carved their own versions of Jack’s Lantern using turnips and gourds filling them with burning coal. They were placed in windows and by doors to scare away Jack and other unsavory spirits. These early renditions were a fright. Likely they were more frightful simply because of the nature of carving turnips. If you’ve ever taken a bladturnip-lanterne to a turnip you can appreciate that they require a lot of muscle.  My own sad attempt at a turnip lantern is more comical than anything.

Early colonists arriving in America discovered pumpkins from the Indians who relied  on them as a winter food source and as a treatment of intestinal worms and urinary ailments. The legend of Stingy Jack and carved lanterns traveled to America with the Irish who were fleeing the potato famine. Pumpkins were quickly adopted for their large size but more likely their ease of carving.

Current day jack- o’-lanterns are a standard Halloween decoration. Celebrated traditions have evolved to include family outings to select the perfect pumpkin for carving and contests for artistic design. One of the many delights of the season is driving through town and seeing my neighbors’ creativity.


How will you celebrate pumpkin season?


Herb Society of America Medical Disclaimer … It is the policy of The Herb Society of America not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any medical or health treatment.

Get Your Pumpkin On

By Jen Munson, Education Chair, Herb Society of America

stingy-jackU.S. growers produce approximately 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins each year with the majority of them being used for carving. My hometown of Portsmouth, NH, does its best to adopt its fair share of this valuable member of the Cucurbitaceae family. You know for certainty that Halloween is just around the corner when Jack O’Lanterns appear on doorsteps and creatures topped with carved pumpkin heads adorn lamp posts.

Today’s pumpkin carving craze may have had its start in Irish folklore. Legend described a trickster name Stingy Jack who tormented everyone including the Devil. When it was Stingy Jack’s time to cross the pearly gates of heaven God wouldn’t accept him because of his antics. The Devil wouldn’t welcome him and instead gave him an ember with an eternal flame from hell. Stingy Jack placed the ember in a carved turnip to light his way thru eternal darkness. The Irish referred to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern” and later just “Jack O’Lantern.”

The Irish and Scottish carved their own versions of Jack’s Lantern using turnips and gourds filling them with burning coal. They were placed in windows and by doors to scare away Jack and other unsavory spirits. These early renditions were a fright. Likely they were more frightful simply because of the nature of carving turnips. If you’ve ever taken a bladturnip-lanterne to a turnip you can appreciate that they require a lot of muscle.  My own sad attempt at a turnip lantern is more comical than anything.

Early colonists arriving to America discovered pumpkins from the Indians relying on them as a winter food source and as a treatment of intestinal worms and urinary ailments. The legend of Stingy Jack and carved lanterns traveled to America with the Irish who were fleeing the potato famine. Pumpkins were quickly adopted for their large size but more likely their ease of carving.

Current day Jack O’ Lanterns are a standard Halloween decoration. Celebrated traditions have evolved to include family outings to select the perfect pumpkin for carving and contests for artistic design. One of the many delights of the season is driving through town and seeing my neighbors’ creativity.


How will you celebrate pumpkin season?

Herbs for Spring Equinox

Herbs for Spring Equinox

The sun is bright, — the air is clear,
The darting swallows soar and sing.
And from the stately elms I hear
The bluebird prophesying Spring.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society Unit of The Herb Society of America

PussywillowThe great wheel of the year turns and faster than you can say “March hare,” the spring equinox or Vernal Equinox is upon us. True to the prose, March would appear to be coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, and none too soon for us Northerners. The first day of spring is a time to celebrate our rebirth and renewal, the soil is beginning to warm and flowers are emerging. When I still lived on a farm, I always knew when the equinox was approaching because a beautiful pussy willow would begin to bud out.  I’d bring in armfuls of the fuzzy catkins and put them in tall vases all around the house.

Now trees are budding, birds are building nests, and flowers are popping up. The earth is trembling with the maternal energies that accompany spring renewal. Drive past a farm and you’ll begin to see baby goats and lambs skipping around fields. The rains are frequent and underground waters are springing upward. The other day I turned over a spade of dirt and discovered earthworms.

Spring cleaning work is calling. There are chicken coops to build, bee hotels, and a hive to put in.

To sooth those work angry muscles, fresh comfrey shoots are appearing. Lovage, perfect for stuffing a chicken, and asparagus, as a side dish, are peeking out. Garlic chives and leeks are readying for soups. Stems of licorice-flavored anise hyssop are waiting to become a soothing tea.

rampMy biggest surprise is three ramps, sending shoots from where I lovingly planted them last spring. My favorite wild spring greens, they are actually flourishing in my yard. I won’t touch them this year, but by next spring I ought to be able to grab a handful for a wonderful wild onion pesto.

Spring and especially the energies of the spring equinox — when the day and night are equally balanced– heralds a great time to cleanse.  It doesn’t have to be harsh, just a lightening up of sorts … a movement towards lighter, fresher foods is called for.

Wild greens like ramps, dandelions, violet leaves, chickweed, purslane, and stinging nettles will soon be everywhere and they’ll make a wonderfully cooling and tonic salad that you can dress simply with a bit of goat cheese, a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt, olive oil, and lemon. (Remember to blanche nettles quickly in boiling water to remove the sting. Do try them, they are delicious and mineral rich.)

juiceFor a delicious springtime tonic try juicing these same greens with the addition of parsley, Swiss chard and, for a touch of sweetness, an apple or two. You can even add honey and lemon and a couple of carrots. This cooling and refreshing juice will rev up your system and get it feeling fun and frolicsome for the warm days ahead.

Green teas, iced and sparkling, with additions of fresh citrus fruits, berries, cucumber slices, and herbs –like basil, sage, and mint — are a wonderful aid for cleansing a system that’s sluggish from the denser foods of winter. A touch of raw honey during the cooling process will give you just enough sweetness and a lovely constant energy. Or, I use maple syrup in honor of the greening trees. The flavor is rich  blended into tea and healthy, providing polyphenols to calm inflammation and antioxidants to boost the immune system.

daffodilsThe most important bit of spring-cleaning folklore that I swear by is to clean everything in your home in a clockwise direction to infuse it with a constant stream of positivity.  As you clean, you’ll want to infuse rosemary essential oil into your environment for its ability to bring clarity. Meanwhile use lots of lemon oil and lemon juice for cleansing and stress relief. And, of course, in any magical household there would always be plenty of lavender strewn about to bring the best luck.

After cleaning I love to put bunches of daffodils and bright clusters of dandelions in antique blue mason jars and scatter them around the house. They make me happy as they draw the powerful energies of the sun into my home.

moonTonight, with luck, we’ll get to see the magnificent full moon, fittingly named the earthworm moon. Know that this vernal equinox is a time of great energy.  It is the time to write down your most closely held dreams and set some simple and intentional goals.  As the light increases and the warmth returns to the earth, your intentions will gain power and your dreams will become reachable.

Celebrate by starting the gardening season. Plant seeds right now, even if it’s just a pot or two on your sunniest windowsill. Write down a wish or two on some recycled paper and place it into your potting soil. As you nurture your seedlings, you are nurturing your dreams.medicinal disclaimer 2

Wishing you the most delightful, joy-filled, creative, and abundant spring!