Sunday 31st October marks the occasion of Halloween, also called All Saints, and Samhain. Being historically celebrated as a harvest festival, this date is also a popular time to celebrate the year’s bounty prior to the coming of the cold winter months. In many countries November also marks pumpkin season, which is perhaps one of the reasons why pumpkins (‘qargħa aħmar’) are so associated with Halloween. Thanks to our climate, in Malta, pumpkins can be found easily throughout the whole year.
During the months of September and October in particular, one is able to admire the fields of growing pumpkins throughout Malta and Gozo, as well as see pumpkins lined up around farmhouses and on rooftops. The beauty of the pumpkin is that it is a tasty filling vegetable which can be used in a variety of recipes, and which is also not expensive to purchase. In Malta, we can generally find two varieties of pumpkin, the White Pumpkin (‘Qargħa Torka’) and the Orange Pumpkin (‘Qargħa ħamra’), which is generally the one used to decorate houses during the Halloween period. Many people in fact love to take out the inner soft filling of the pumpkin and carve its outer edge or ‘face’ with spooky designs, place a small candle inside, and light up the ensemble in the evenings.
The pumpkin’s succulent inner meaty part can be used in a variety of recipes, both sweet and savoury. Locally, it is most well-known for being a key ingredient used in the traditional Maltese ‘Minestra’, as well as in pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are vegetables incredibly rich in vital antioxidants, and vitamins. Having only a few calories, pumpkins nonetheless also sport a high percentage of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. They are also a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. The pumpkin contains no saturated fats or cholesterol and is rich in dietary fiber. Pumpkin seeds, which many people love to eat as a snack, are a great source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Malta has its own special event celebrating this vegetable, and showcasing the produce of our local farmers and agriculture-professionals. This is the Pumpkin Fair, or Festa tal-Qargħa Aħmar. This year, the 9th edition of this event will be taking place on Sunday 30th October, between 10am and 5pm, in the small rural locality of Manikata, in the north-west of Malta. It is hosted and run by the Manikata Farmers Cooperative, we well as the Mellieħa Local Council.
Featuring a variety of food stands, those who attend will be able to enjoy such delicacies as baked pumpkin pasta, vegetarian curried pumpkin rice, pumpkin jam, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin and white chocolate cake, pumpkin sweet pie, as well as being able to purchase fresh pumpkins and other vegetables grown by local farmers.
The event will feature entertainment for all the family. Modern music will be the prerogative of DJ Silvan, while there will also be local musicians delighting us with more traditional tunes as well. Special events for children include a trick or treat treasure hunt, a bouncy castle, sand tables, face painting, and much more. Performers from Artemocion Dance and Leisure Studio will also be participating. There will also be a number of artisan stands and products.
There will be a FREE Park and Ride service from Hal-Ferh to Manikata Church.