The Great Pumpkin

I do believe that this country has gone out of its gourd with pumpkin.

It's the biggest food takeover in America since the Italians introduced pizza to an unsuspecting public in the late-19th century.

Pumpkin spiced coffee. Pumpkin scented candles. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin pies.

OK, that last one doesn't count.

Somewhere, in some board room in corporate America, it was determined that pumpkin spice should be sprinkled, mixed, folded, encased and saturated into every possible food stuff we consume.

The ironic thing is that pumpkin, by itself, certainly must taste pretty nasty. It's only edible because of what is added to it.

If you plan on buying a pumpkin for Halloween with the intent of carving it, scrape out a portion and eat it, raw with no helpers.

I dare ya.

Pumpkin isn't invading our food supply, it's the spices added to it that are working their way into our digestive tracts with virulent speed.

Starbucks, for example, only started putting real pumpkin in its pumpkin spiced drinks in 2015---and those drinks debuted in 2003.

Pumpkin is literally the flavor of the day.

But again, the irony is that we're not hooked on pumpkin, per se; we're loving the allure of allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and Lord knows what else is being added to pumpkin to make it palatable.

Still, it's all being served up using the p-word.

Pumpkin (spice) is in our beer. It's in our tea, in our coffee. I haven't looked, but I'm sure there's a pumpkin spiced chewing gum, too.

So how did the pumpkin craze start, anyway?

Well, it didn't start with a spike in pumpkin sales.

Every year since 2010, we've been buying fewer and fewer pumpkins---the actual fruit/gourd.

Yet we're inundated with pumpkin this, pumpkin that.

According to the market research company The NPD Group, sales of pumpkin-flavored items continue to soar, rising 11.6 percent to $361 million for the year ended July 25.

No hard data is available on how much of those items' content actually contains real pumpkin versus some witches' brew of spices and flavorings---natural or artificial.

Here's a non-surprising fact, thanks to Neilsen.

"While 50 percent of U.S. consumers are actively trying to lose weight, they're overlooking fresh pumpkin to satisfy their craving, instead opting for indulgent treats like baked goods, dips and sweets, where sales have steadily increased," the company said in a statement.

The key word, of course, is "fresh."


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