The supply chain problem has us searching for everything from computer chips to kitty litter. It is an issue that affects just about every one of us and Halloween isn’t exempt from the dilemma. It looks like our beloved jack-o-lanterns are in short supply this year in many parts of the country. The drought kept farmers from planting as many pumpkins as usual and on top of that, weather conditions made for a less than bountiful harvest in many pumpkin-growing areas. Then, a lack of trucks to haul them added to the problem. That means, if you have pumpkins to buy in your area, the higher cost of bringing them in will be passed on to the consumer. Some areas have an abundance of pumpkins, mine has plenty. However, that isn’t the case for many people who wish to carve their own spooky squash. We have some alternative ideas that will possibly delight everyone involved.
Chances are, your local supermarket has watermelons and cantaloupes for sale. They are perfect alternatives to the pumpkin, and if you are put off by the fruity stripes or color, just paint them to match the décor. They may even be a little cheaper than the pumpkins this year. On top of that, the insides that you scoop out makes for an excellent fruit salad. Just use a melon ball scoop to scrape away the insides until you have a thin rind to carve. Pineapples make an interesting jack-o-lantern too, with the spiky top, creating an interesting hat, or top knot. Butternut squash are also an acceptable alternative and the meat makes for a tasty soup. Small vegetables like bell peppers are also a good choice and easy to carve as well. You can group several of different colors together as a unique centerpiece. Use battery-powered tea lights instead of candles for safety in all of these jack-o-lanterns.
If you’re not really excited about a non-pumpkin fruit or vegetable for a jack-o-lantern, why not use something totally different? Painted mason jars make excellent jack-o-lanterns and you can place a whole troop of them along your walkway. Gallon milk jugs painted and carved with eyes, nose and mouth are also good choices. Give the milk jugs a silly hat and no one will recognize them. Again, use battery-powered tea lights to cut down on the fire hazard. You may be lucky enough to run across a ceramic pumpkin with an electric light inside. I’ve had the same one for over 30 years, so the $9.99 it cost definitely paid for itself many times over. I just store it in the closet with my other holiday decorations and bring it out for Halloween. Decorated paper bags are also good choices, however many parts of the country are seeing a shortage of those too.
Fresh, carving pumpkins are not the only shortage, there’s a shortage of the canned, pureed pumpkin in the supermarkets as well. This may only be temporary though. The farmers had to delay their planting due to bad weather and flooding, so the pie pumpkins (which are different from the jack-o-lanterns) weren’t harvested at the normal time. The delay in getting the fruits to the canneries resulted in a delay in getting the pumpkin on the grocery store shelves. We have reports that the canned pumpkin should be available shortly. However, please don’t twist this into a toilet paper situation and turn into a pumpkin hoarder. Purchase what you normally use and leave the rest for others. There’s just so much canned pumpkin that anyone needs. If your supermarket is still out of pumpkin, try sweet potatoes. Here in the South, many people prefer it. Use canned sweet potatoes, or 1&1/2 cups of roasted, peeled and pureed sweet potatoes in place of pumpkin.
We’ve all had to make lifestyle adjustments for nearly two years now. Some have not been so good, while others have taught us new skills and new ways of looking at things. We’ve baked bread, made jams and jellies, learned to garden and other fun and useful skills. Let’s use this shortage to channel our creativity and find unique, fun ways to achieve the same effect. I’ve always been a ‘color outside the lines’ type of person and when faced with a hiccup in my plans, I’m always searching for something that will work and be pleasing to boot. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you get it. Use this pumpkin shortage to be creative and it’s possible that you’ll discover some new family traditions that you didn’t know you needed.
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