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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pumpkins On the Rise

For as long as I can remember, autumn has been pumpkin season. Typically this means decorative pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie. But this year, the round, orange version of winter squash is making a real comeback. Pumpkin, it seems, is experiencing an explosion in popularity.

Apparently, pumpkin's popularity has been on the rise for several years. According to one food industry market research firm, sales of pumpkin-flavored foods have increased 234 percent since 2008. Sales of all pumpkin-flavored foods and beverages increased 14 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to market research firm Nielsen. A recent trip to Trader Joe's provided evidence of this increased popularity. I saw pumpkin-flavored coffee, granola, pancake/waffle mix and pumpkin bread mix, plus many more pumpkin-themed foods and drinks. Below is a complete list of pumpkin-flavored items offered by Trader Joe's, courtesy of The Gothamist:

1. Real pumpkins
2. Pecan pumpkin instant oatmeal
3. Pumpkin soup
4. Pumpkin bar baking mix
5. Pumpkin pancake and waffle mix
6. Harvest Blend salad with pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cornbread croutons, and pumpkin vinaigrette
7. Pumpkin kringle
8. Pumpkin cream cheese muffins
9. Pumpkin bagels
10. Mini ginger pumpkin ice cream mouthfuls
11. Pumpkin pie mochi ice cream
12. Pumpkin ice cream
13. Pumpkin bread pudding
14. Pumpkin pie
15. Pumpkin macarons
16. Mini pumpkin pie
17. Pumpkin cheesecake
18. Pumpkin croissants
19. Pumpkin waffles
20. Pumpkin cornbread croutons
21. Pumpkin Joe-Joe's cookies
22. Pumpkin biscotti

23. Pumpkin spice chai
24. Pumpkin cornbread mix
25. Pumpkin seed brittle
26. Pumpkin butter
27. Organic canned pumpkin
28. Pumpkin spice coffee
29. Pumpkin spice salted caramels
30. Iced pumpkin scone cookies
31. Pumpkin O's cereal
32. This Pumpkin Walks Into A Bar cereal bars
33. Organic frosted pumpkin toaster pastries
34. Country pumpkin spice granola cereal
35. Pumpkin cranberry crisps
36. Pumpkin butter
37. Pumpkin cream cheese
38. Pumpkin beer
39. Pumpkin seeds
40. Pumpkin ravioli
41. Pumpkin scone mix
42. Pumpkin dog treats
43. Pumpkin yogurt
44. Pumpkin spice tea

Never have I seen so many pumpkin-flavored items for sale, and not just at Trader Joe's. The World Market chain of stores also offers pumpkin scone mix, and I saw recipes this week for spiced pumpkin biscuits, pumpkin spice cookies and pumpkin cream soup.
Pumpkin spice beers are popular at this time of year, and how about some pumpkin spice beef jerky?

Some attribute pumpkin's increased popularity to Starbucks' introduction of the pumpkin latte a decade ago. Whatever the reason, pumpkin farms are booming. Pumpkin is making a real resurgence, after having been cultivated as a food crop in North America for more than 5,000 years. Pumpkin ice cream or doughnuts, anyone? Or how about a glass of pumpkin wine?

I am not a big fan of Halloween and jack-o-lanterns, but I have to admire this winter squash and its ability to reinvent itself after 5,000 years.