Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica, and many cuisines, including Georgian, enjoy its rich and versatile flavor. Pumpkins are more than just a food though – they are also a symbol of Halloween, a holiday celebrated mostly in America and Western Europe.
Halloween has become more and more popular in Georgia, but the celebration has met resistance from the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The Patriarch of Georgia has said that foreign holidays like Halloween should not be celebrated in a country like Georgia, which has around 2000 years of its own Christian traditions and celebrations. To learn more about how pumpkins are traditionally used in Georgia, we went to Tserovani, an IDP settlement near Tbilisi.
There, locals shared with us their favorite recipes, and explained some of the difficulties they encounter when cultivating the large squash.
Pumpkins can bee seen in almost every garden in Tserovani, and people here mostly grow them for personal use. “We don’t have much land here, and cannot grow enough [pumpkins] to sell them,” says a 57 year old man.
In this area, pumpkin is usually fried or boiled.
Displaced from Akhalgori, 54 year old Mzia says that with enough water and proper fertilizer, pumpkins are easy to grow.
“We are cooking it during New Year. We boil it. I don’t like pumpkins and neither does anyone in my family. In Akhalgori we had pumpkins, too, but they were better there because of the soil and fertilization.”
27-years old Mamuka has grown one of the biggest pumpkins in the settlement. Born to an Ossetian mother and Georgian father, Mamuka says that he misses his big house in Ossetia and the large garden in which they grew thousands of kilograms of apple.
“I love it; it’s very tasty and I grow them every year,” says 55-year-old Yura, who moved to Tserovani from Akhalgori after the Russian-Georgian 2008 war. He grows 10-15 pumpkins in the fall and keeps them until the New Year.
“Growing good pumpkins demands intensive watering, and they must be picked before the tail dries out,” says Yura.
“ I did not have pumpkins this year because I did not have seeds, but next year I will, for sure. It takes one full year to cultivate pumpkins. We cook pumpkin soup, or just boil it in water. But for New Year, we try to have it on the table.
“I only know a little about Halloween. I know that on this day everyone gives candies and wears very strange clothes. I don’t celebrate, but we like it very much. Every year, we carve the eyes and mouth out of the pumpkin”