CF Braban, J H Braban and, AJ McGowan,
In 2011 and 2012 the early pioneering experimental work of McGowan et al. was repeated with a wider, and more interesting variety of vegetables and fruit to begin a systematic assessment of which may be most suitable for use as a Hallowe’en Tumshie to strike fear into neighbours most and create a long-lasting sense of unease for the longest period under Central Scottish meteorological conditions. The 2011 experiment pitted the neep agin, pumpkin and celeriac – as the celeriac is a fine vegetable and yay it won. The 2012 experiment expanded into taxa not routinely grown in Scotland. Five taxa comprised the starting field o’ 5: turnip, pumpkin, celeriac, pineapple and melon. The turnip probably won as it became old wizened and scary and sat on the shed for the longest, though the celeriac was a close second. The pineapple was fab as after an initial period of watery decay it became a type of leather which weathered almost as well as the tumshie lantern and the celeriac. The melon proved to be quite fragile and showed brittle fracture properties after falling off the shed early in the experiment. It also then proceeded to decay rather quickly. As ever the pumpkin decayed into a pile of splat before all the other competitors (except the melon) were even looking particularly aged. This raises significant ethical questions about the sale of pumpkins for anything other than soup-making by retailers in Scotland.
Silly, vegetable, fruit, taphonomy, experiment, Halloween
After much whinging by Braban & Braban (lengthy personal communications 2011 onwards) that the experimental set-up was biased against any attractive, edible subjects, the methodology established in previous work (McGowan et al. 2010) was usurped, as McGowan was out of the country.
In 2011 a minor expansion of the 2010 McGowan et al. experiment with but in 2012, Braban & Braban took it upon themselves to blow the consumables budget, while using unauthorized suppliers not on the procurement system, to obtain five specimen taxa. In addition to the previously studied neep (Brassica napobrassica), [Linnean taxonomy is required due to the lack of clear geographical localization of the use of ‘neep’], pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) and celeriac, a fine vegetable [P. Griffiths.personal communication] and (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum), fruit were added to the experimental matrix. A watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) and pineapple (Ananas comosus). AJM seeks to distance himself from these regrettable choices, especially given the lack of comparability in the structure and chemical composition of the fruit. You don’t grow watermelon to feed sheep on the fell over the winter. The tenuous selection criterion for these candidates was that they were of appropriate size and shape for carving a tumsie lantern from, although this assertion was unsupported by morphometric analyses. The array of lanterns looked great on Hallowe’en.
On the 31st October all the taxa had a transverse cut made to expose the inner tissues of the subjects. The innards were scooped out, a ghoulish visage cut out, and a tea light placed inside. The edible materials were devoured using the ‘Cannibal Ferox’ protocol . The finished lanterns are then placed on the relatively flat Braban/McGowan experimental site (aka the shed roof). On the evening of the 31st October, the candles were lit until JHB’s bedtime (about 2100 on this exciting night). Then the candles are removed and the tumshie lanterns left to decay. CFB is less than rigorous so if subjects got blown off once or twice they got put back up on the shed. At the end of the experiment the remains were put in the Braban/McGowan compost bin. Well, except for the turnip, which is now in AJM’s study, looking all too like a shrunken head (see SOM). The heads, you’re looking at the heads. Sometimes he goes too far, he’s the first one to admit it..
Results and Discussion
2010: See McGowan et al. blog post ~2 years ago…
2011: The photos from this experiment are on a broken camera, they will be published at a future date. However the result was that the celeriac won! Turnip second and the pumpkin last.
2012: The results are summarised in the photos. –
Figure 1: Time series of decay of subjects. Dates from top to bottom: 1) Day 1: 31/10/2012; 2)Day 36: December 6th; 3)
Day 46: December 16th; 4) Day 54: December 22nd; 5) Day 68: Jan 4th;
6) Day 82: Feb 16th
Final photos: The end to the experiment was called on the 16th February 2013, with the turnip tumshie declared the winner!
Conclusion and Future work
The neep rules supreme for a second run of the experiment, calling in to question the 2011 results. CFB has put in some appeal about the celeriac being too big this year, which only strengthens AJM’s comments about the lack of morphometric data included in the set-up of the experimental array. JHB was impressed by the durability of the pineapple, which is more than can be said for AJM about her choice of a watermelon as subject five. Braban & Braban report that the pineapple was significantly more eerie than any of the other subjects. However, AJM notes that the limited sample size (n=2 and CFB is easily scared). CFB sees a potential boom in the Scottish aged Pineapple skin leather industry after this report.
The collapse of the pumpkin for a third year running calls in to question whether this taxon should be sold in Central Scotland for the purposes of making lanterns.
The 2013 experiment is now in preparation and the critical shortcomings in data need to be addressed. An experimental array of multiple specimens of each taxon, with morphometric and mass data, should remove confounding variables and settle this once and for all (AJM is down to do mot of the prep this time!!! CFB)
You can’t be serious.
CFB and JHB were greatly assisted by J. Neumann in preparing the subjects
Declaration: CFB declares no competing interests, but well she would, wouldn’t she? AJM has seen the letters from celeriac marketing board offering seeds. JHB declares that she thinks the pineapple was the scariest. AJM declares that this sort of abuse of scientific method is becoming rife and something must be done.
CFB and JHB designed the experiment. CFB took a lot of geotagged photos, that revealed the GPS unit on the phone was very confused about altitude. CFB, JHB and AJM wrote the paper. AJM procrastinated.