Put down the PSL and listen up.
I’ve always considered myself a fan of pumpkin and other winter squash. I love a creamy pumpkin soup on a crisp fall day, and I am always down for a slice of hearty pumpkin bread. But recently things have gotten a little out of hand. See, pumpkin is so overwhelmingly popular this time of year because it’s in season. Meaning fresh pumpkin and squash are at their peak flavor-wise and harvested and ready for indulgent autumn meals. But somehow we’ve managed to move away from that, and the pumpkin craze has exploded into sugary, dare I say, garbage.
Maybe it was the pumpkin spice latte that sparked this phenomenon, or maybe it’s just the food industry knows how to make a quick buck. Supermarkets are filled with everything from pumpkin-flavored coffee, cookies, and protein bars to hummus, ice cream, and potato chips—most of which are made without an ounce of real pumpkin on the ingredient list. It’s all lies—and I’m sick of it.
For example, recently our team here received a variety of pumpkin-flavored product samples for review. Our sampling table was piled high with pumpkin spiced marshmallows, wafers, bottled lattes, yogurt, and toaster pastries. Just one peak at the ingredients, and pumpkin didn’t even make the cut. But do you know what does? Sugar—and lots of it. Just one bite of a pumpkin wafer cookie, and I honestly wouldn’t be able to identify it as “pumpkin” in a blind test. It was overpoweringly flavored of that weird artificial sweetness, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves, but definitely not pumpkin.
And fake pumpkin isn’t my only problem with pumpkin-everything season. What about those items that have real pumpkin in them, but probably shouldn’t. Take this for example; Some friends and I were at a local bar having drinks the other weekend. I selected the autumn special drink— a Tom Collins-like cocktail mixed with pumpkin puree and topped with a dusting of cinnamon. On paper it sounded elegant and seasonal, but when the drink arrived we found that a lemony cocktail should never mingle with pumpkin, especially when the puree settles quite ungracefully at the bottom of the glass. Two sips in and I was done. Sometimes, the season’s harvest isn’t meant to make it into my Saturday night cocktail. Sometimes you don’t have to pumpkin everything.
Here’s the thing about the pumpkin spice season. I love a slice of Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf and PSL on occasion, but to go out and fill your pantry with an overwhelming amount of fake flavored pumpkin nonsense is a waste of money. What you should be doing is eating pumpkin everything—but the real way. Dive into a bowl of roasted pumpkin soup or make a tray of Baked Gnocchi with Pumpkin-Cheese Sauce or a side dish of Pumpkin-Poblano Casserole family dinner night. And, if you’re really feeling something sweet try a Pear-and-Pumpkin Tart or Savory Pumpkin Spice Dutch Baby. Please, take advantage of pumpkin season. But don’t fall victim to the sugary tricks packaged goods and restaurants offer. You can thank me later.