30ish Seconds on pumpkin spice’s domination of fall

Juliette Nixon, 2, carries the perfect pumpkin to her mother Linsey as they make it a tradition for their young family. The Tarrytown United Methodist Church hosts their annual Pumpkin Patch benefiting their Youth Ministry on the front lawn through October 31 or until the large round and smooth squashes are all gone. Large crowds gathered after church services to find that special one Sunday afternoon October 5, 2014. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman)

Juliette Nixon, 2, carries the perfect pumpkin to her mother Linsey at the Tarrytown United Methodist Church’s annual Pumpkin Patch. Large crowds gathered after church services to find that special one Sunday afternoon October 5, 2014.
(Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman)

In “30ish Seconds,” we take one topic and talk about it for—you guessed it—30 or so seconds. This time, we tackle the ubiquity of pumpkin spice in the fall, and offer up alternative flavors to define the season.

Googling “pumpkin spice” produces 21,600,000 million results. Narrow the search terms to “pumpkin spice latte” and 2,380,000 remain.

The flavor that has come to represent autumn started out with humble enough roots; pumpkin pie predated the Mayflower and used to play second fiddle to apple, pear and quince tarts.

Ever since 2003, Starbucks’ most successful seasonal beverage has undoubtedly been the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The company has sold more than 200 million PSLs (the abbreviation originally used by baristas that has since been adopted by Starbucks’ consumers) since the first test run of the beverage.

Pumpkin spice flavored food and drinks do not necessarily include–surprise, surprise–pumpkin. Pumpkin spice simply refers to the flavor in a pumpkin pie that is not the pumpkin itself. (Here’s the traditional Betty Crocker recipe for pumpkin pie spice, if you want to make your own.) Starbucks announced in August that their seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte would include real pumpkin this year for the first time, but were we ever truly fooled that the drink was anything but sugar and non-natural ingredients?

With the inflated popularity of pumpkins, the demand for the gourd increases. According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas produced 71,821,423 pounds of pumpkin less than Texans consumed in 2014. The top six pumpkin-producing states produced 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkin in 2014, and Texas was not one of them. While Austin has local urban farms, pumpkins take dedication to cultivate as they should be planted in the summer to ensure ripening by October. Pumpkins also require time and a lot of space to properly cultivate. They also do not do well in Texas’ variable weather.

The Texas Department of Agriculture provides this brochure showing when different produce is fresh and available. While pumpkins fit the bill to be a staple of autumn food, there are many other options to crown as a fall flavor. Apple Cider is always a good choice, but since Austin likes to be on the cutting edge – might we suggest persimmon?


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