It’s become the stuff of internet memes and Saturday Night Live skits. Even before the weather starts to turn cool in September, American minds turn to one flavor above all else: pumpkin. Just what is it about these gracious gourds that makes them an intrinsic part of fall’s arrival, and what pumpkin-flavored treats outshine the rest this season? Let’s take a closer look.
A Surge in Squash Love
When you think of flashy flavors, pumpkin probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And yet when autumn arrives, the collective ardor for all things pumpkin can be described as no less than a craze.
As St. Louis University professor of American Studies and author of Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon Cindy Ott told NPR, “It’s a vegetable that represents this idyllic farm life, and the best sort of moral virtue. And Americans have become attached to that.”
So when did pumpkins first start having a moment? While it may seem an unlikely story, experts attribute the pumpkin’s ongoing appeal to the industrial revolution and the resulting exodus of people in America from rural to urban areas. With this mass departure came a nostalgia for simpler times. Enter the undoubtedly American, seductively simple pumpkin.
Did you know that buying pumpkin products is actually a way to support local family farms? Because of their limited seasonal availability, many small local farms find their pumpkins in great demand come fall — a very important boost to their ongoing viability, according to Ott. All in all, more than one billion pounds of pumpkin from approximately 50,000 acres are now annually produced in the United States, generating more than $100 million in farm sales.
But pumpkins aren’t just good for family farms. They’re also good for you thanks to their rich beta-carotene content. An important contributor to many of the body’s health functions, beta-carotene — which converts to vitamin A — has been linked with everything from preventing cancer and heart disease to halting several degenerative aspects of aging.
And while immediate feelings of longing for the charms of olden days may be long gone, the sentiment not only remains more than 150 years later, but has grown to comprise everything from classics like pies and spiced cakes to new favorites like craft beer and lattes.
So where do you even start when it comes to getting your pumpkin fix? If you’re looking for the real deal, skip over-processed baked goods and even your usual pilgrimage to Starbucks. Why? Because these are more likely to contain “pumpkin spice flavoring,” as opposed to actual pumpkin. And really — what’s the point of that?
Luckily, finding foods made with real, wholesome pumpkin is easier than you think thanks to gourmet mail order food companies like FoodyDirect, which offer a huge assortment of pumpkin dishes, including everything from mail order pies to pumpkin ice cream made with the finest quality fresh pumpkin puree.
If fall had a signature flavor, it would without a doubt be pumpkin. Whether you’re already in full-on fall mode or hoping to catch the spirit, shop these delicious pumpkin dishes to maximize the mood before the last leaves fall and autumn becomes a distant, orange-hued memory.