According to Irish lore, Stingy Jack was a trickster so talented that he even fooled the devil.

When the devil came to claim Jack’s soul, Jack asked the devil to climb a tree and pick him an apple to serve as his last meal on earth.  While the devil was up the tree, Jack encircled the trunk with crosses and would not allow the devil to exit without first promising to not carry him to hell.

When Jack died, St. Peter, of course, turned him away from heaven’s gates.  The devil kept his word and instead of taking him to the underworld sent Jack off to roam the earth for eternity with only a glowing coal ember placed inside a carved-out turnip to light his way.  He became known as Jack of the Lantern.

Throughout Europe, people carved their own lanterns out of turnips, potatoes and beets to keep Jack away on All Hallow’s Eve when the dead walk among us. It wasn’t until 19th century immigrants encountered pumpkins in America that the familiar orange orbs became a Halloween tradition.

But at Beekman 1802, we can find more things in the heirloom vegetable garden to an inspire us than a pumpkin.

This year, we chose to work with the parsnip to make an entire collection of ghostly ghouls.


Using small LED tealights, we sat our family of fiends in an old faux wood nut bowl.


We used an apple corer, a melon baller and a nut pick to carve out the bottom half of the parsnips, but coming up with something scary is very easy because of the natural shape and texture of the parsnip.

Other options: use vines or small twigs to make arms just perfect for reaching out and stealing a soul.  For an even more dramatic effect, use a small diameter drill bit to drill a hole from the top of the parsnip all the way through to the bottom you hollowed out.  Using a real candle will create a smokestack allowing smoke to billow out of the top of your ghostly apparition.

We think Jack would be proud.

Like your Halloween to be a bit prettier?  See this idea for a beautiful pumpkin lantern.

by Josh and Brent

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The parsnips are marvellous. I like the idea of the smokestacks and will try it.. Some veg are much easier to carve than others. Swede is like a stone. Citrus fruits of all types can look dramatic too.


I really enjoy reading stories like this on your website.

The parsnips are really scary looking!


Wow, what a great idea. Actually, they look like elephant trunks (thank goodness they're not). Gotta' check and see if we still have some of our parsnips. Leave it to you to learn the true meaning of the Jack-o-lantern. Thanks so much, can't wait to tell the real meaning to our grandchildren.

Tiffany Goins

My daughter just came in while I was looking at this and said, "Wow, those are spooky"! Awesome idea guys!


How long do they last and can you carve them early and leave them out for a while?

Dr. Brent

Hi, Jennifer

I found the parsnips to hold up well. You can absolutely do ahead of time. Even as they start to droop, they look a little more ghoulish


Thank you for the bit of history – I didn't know that other root vegetables were used as lanterns. Those parsnip jack-o-lanterns are frighteningly SPOOKY.

Have a great Halloween!