Love it or hate it, Halloween is not just a Northern American holiday anymore. Every year, more and more Australians are embracing the spooky festival, which sees sales of decorations, costumes, lollies and chocolates booming each October. But among the sugar rush and the zombie face paint, it’s the humble pumpkin that’s carving out a real success story.
Traditionally an autumn fruit (yep, it’s a fruit), pumpkins are flying off shelves in growing numbers each spring thanks to the October 31 celebration. This year, Australians look to spend a terrifying $1.5 million on Halloween pumpkins, most of them destined to become Jack-O-Lanterns rather than dinner.
A hollowed-out pumpkin with a face (or other design) carved into the side and a candle stuck in the middle, the Jack-O-Lantern has been a memorable symbol of Halloween on US TV shows and movies for decades. As Halloween parties, decorated front lawns and trick-or-treaters have become much more common sights in Aussie suburbs, so have these glowing pumpkins. Last year alone, Coles supermarkets reported sales of over 270 tonnes of Halloween carving pumpkins, with demand tripling in six years.
“It’s pretty intense,” pumpkin grower Troy Muller told the ABC. “You’ve got to get that many pumpkins out to people in a short time.”
While he understands there’s still some resistance to Halloween catching on in Australia, he has no problem with his crops not being roasted or made into soup.
“I think [it's a great] idea for parents sitting down with their kids on Halloween and carving a pumpkin out, getting a pumpkin each and putting their own personality into each carving."
That doesn’t sound so scary.
Tristan Lutze is a food writer, photographer and stylist based in Sydney, Australia. Originally from Melbourne, Tristan is rarely not thinking about, talking about, playing with, looking at or eating food. He shares a home with two cats and an overworked deep fryer. Follow him on Instagram @tristancooksandeats