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Pumpkin shortage warnings prompt call to return to the original Halloween decoration - the humble turnip

People hoping to carve a traditional pumpkin lantern for Halloween may be in for a shock - as wet weather has led to a shortage of the bulbous orange fruit.

Instead, revellers are being urged to rediscover the original carved decoration - the humble turnip.

Growers have warned of a potential pumpkin shortage Credit: PA/Reuters
Credit: PA

The turnip was the original vegetable of choice for people marking Halloween in Britain, who would etch scary faces into them and put them near doorways to frighten away any wandering evil spirits.

The custom originated from a folk tale about a man named Jack who tried to trick the Devil. When he failed, he was cursed to roam the earth with only a single burning coal inside a hollowed-out turnip to light his way - the origina Jack o'lantern.

As people moved to the US during the 19th Century, they took this tradition with them, but quickly happened upon pumpkins - a native American fruit which was much easier to carve.

As the American celebration of All Hallows Eve grew bigger, the pumpkin gradually overtook the turnip as the most widely-recognised Jack o'lantern.

The pumpkin is now the most widely-recognised Jack o'lantern Credit: PA

English Heritage has installed a number of turnip lanterns as part of its half term Halloween event at Dover Castle to help inspire those looking for ideas.

From carved pumpkins to trick or treating, many of the traditions associated with Halloween today come from early European folklore, rather than simply being American inventions.

This year English Heritage is having fun with some of the original Halloween traditions including our array of carved turnips at Dover Castle and ghost tours at our castles across the country.

I don't think turnips are going to replace pumpkins, they are more difficult to carve, but hopefully people will remember the turnip and all our other rich traditions this Halloween.

– Dr Michael Carter, English Heritage