It's pumpkin month in Kasterlee


Nowhere is the big orange (and other coloured) squash more celebrated than in the village of Kasterlee in Antwerp province

Races and tastings await visitors

“In Kasterlee we eat pumpkins, while the rest eat beans,” wrote a 16th-century priest, giving the residents of Kasterlee their reputation as ‘pumpkin mash eaters’, a nickname that has stuck to this day. Before the introduction of the potato from the New World two centuries later, many Flemish peasants relied on beans as their main source of sustenance. Pumpkins, therefore, were considered a seasonal delicacy and are still associated with festivals around harvest time. And nowhere is the big orange (and other coloured) squash more celebrated than in the village of Kasterlee in Antwerp province.

Visit the town throughout October to experience a diverse range of activities, and I mean diverse: in Kasterlee, they don’t just eat pumpkin, they have even based a number of games, competitions and rituals around it. 

The fun kicks off with the Pumpkin Happening on 12 October at 17.00 in nearby Sint-Lenaarts, also in Antwerp province, a contest for the heaviest pumpkin and the best-looking pumpkin. Last year’s winning gourd weighed in at an impressive 535kg. Then, on 13 October at 13.00, the highly anticipated annual pumpkin shoot takes place in Kasterlee, pitting teams against one another to see who can catapult a 4kg pumpkin the farthest.

On Kasterlee’s officially designated Pumpkin Day, 20 October, there’s a traditional farmer’s market selling pumpkins in all shapes and sizes, as well as artisanal and regional products (including non-pumpkin delicacies like local beer and goat’s cheese).

But the regatta on 27 October at 13.00 has to be the highlight of pumpkin month. For this event – which is, perhaps needless to say, unique in Belgium – giant pumpkins are hollowed out and used as makeshift kayaks. Believe it or not, the pumpkins stay afloat and upright as contestants climb inside and paddle their way to the finish line downriver.

The regatta participants may get wet and cold, but a warming cup of creamy pumpkin soup is sure to be waiting for them around every corner. For Kastelaars don’t play with their food; they in fact take it very seriously. Especially this month you’ll find surprising suggestions and dishes incorporating pumpkin on the menus of many of the town’s 100-odd restaurants. Ask the Kasterlee tourist office for a list of suggested restaurants. While you’re at it, why not pick up maps for a pumpkin-themed walk or bike ride through the pumpkin fields.

It's pumpkin month in Kasterlee

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