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Pumpkin or Apple: A History of Flavor

The two most popular flavors of the fall here in the United States are unmistakably pumpkin and apple. Apple orchards and pumpkin patches become flooded with people in search of good pickings, families looking for a fall-themed photo ops, and curious city dwellers who long for a taste of authentic country living. All can be found in the folds of the rural regions of our country as fall takes over and the trees begin to change colors.

While both pumpkin and apple have long been in our favorite flavor and scent rotations, it wasn’t really until the 80s that these flavors became a part of our overall cultural identity. Candles have always been a big deal in the United States, whether for light or as an easy fallback gift for big life events, but it was during the 80s that there was a resurgence in popularity in the candle industry. Scented candles became a huge hit to be used for decoration, perfuming a room, and mood lighting. Of course, some of our most popular scented candles during this renaissance of candle making were those with fall scents. In 1995, an article written by a Ms. Liz Stevens of the Times Union in Albany, NY about the surge in obsession with scented candles asked the question, “are we becoming a nation of cinnamon-apple and pumpkin spice addicts?” The answer came as a resounding yes that continues to prove affirmative even today. Our obsession now stems outside of the candle realm, logically stretching in cinnamon apple flavored foods and pumpkin spice beverages that continue to seep further and further into the summer in what some people are calling “seasonal creep.”


Apples in the Unites States

The history of this iconic American flavor is seeped deeply in our culture. One of the first stories we are told as children is that of Johnny Appleseed, the man who spread apples across the land. Of course, as children we aren’t told that apples were pertinent to the alcohol culture of colonial times, instead we just think of them innocently as a delicious fruit. They had different purposes as well, since there was often a stipulation for colonists from their mainland that they needed to do something with their land in order to stay on it. Many colonists turned to agriculture, particularly to planting apples. Colonists brought apple tree cuttings over from Europe and started growing different types of apples all over. Eventually there were over 14,000 types of apples being grown in the colonies.

Fall here in the United States used to be heavily rooted in the love of all things apple, from apple crisps to apple cider, in a callback to our history of making apple cider during colonial times for both pleasure and necessity. Apple cider was, in many cases, the most sanitary drink available, as plain drinking water was hard to come by. Today, pumpkin is the more dominant flavor, though apple is still up there in popularity!


When Did Pumpkin Take Over for Apple Flavors?

There were a variety of incredible events that dotted the cultural landscape of 2003, perhaps none more staying than the introduction of the pumpkin spice latte, or PSL, by iconic coffee chain Starbucks. This drink is now a signature of fall in the United Sates and is arguably the chain’s most recognizable and controversial drink. Now, pumpkin coffee has been around since the 90s as well, but it was Starbucks that catapulted this drink into the realm of celebrity, and today it is a continued and cherished flavor tradition. This is considered by many food experts to be the true mark of pumpkin flavor taking over the autumn food landscape.


Is There Pumpkin in Pumpkin Spice?

Nope. It was in 1934 that McCormick and Company invented Pumpkin Spice, designed to help housewives make more delicious pies. The original pumpkin spice was made up of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, with some sulfiting agents in the mix too, to keep the spices fresh. Our Pumpkin Pie Spice relies instead on freshly ground spices and does not contain sulfiting agents.

If you want some recipes with real pumpkin in them, try out Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust or Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Sugar. Looking for something to impress the adults at your Halloween party? Mayan Pumpkin Hot Chocolate Cocktail is sure to do the trick. Searching for something more savory? Turkey and Pumpkin Chili is perfect for any night of the week.


Apple Pie or Pumpkin Pie?

Though pumpkin may win out the everyday consumer on their way to work in the form of a latte, apple pie is still the favorite pie of this country! Apple pie is a holiday necessity. You can survive without a pumpkin pie at the table, but there is nothing sadder at a gathering than the haunted empty spot where an apple pie was supposed to sit. “Homemade apple pie” is still one of the most searched food related terms around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. Apple Pie Spice is also a thing that exists, but most people associate Pumpkin Pie Spice with the autumn, not really thinking about Apple Pie Spice. You are likely less familiar with this spice, though it contains many of the same ingredients that make up Pumpkin Pie Spice.


We Still Love Apples

Don’t let all this pumpkin hoopla throw you off! Apples are still a classic fall fruit that we love for their crunch and delicious flavor. We love trying out interesting recipes with apple flavor highlights, like Apple and Raisin Cake with Fennel Pollen or Apple Cider Donuts. Either of these make for a tasty dessert that will certainly squelch your need for something sweet after a hearty, comforting, cool weather meal. This part of our history will not soon be erased, even if pumpkins seem to be overwhelming the food market currently. Go out and indulge in pumpkin spice for sure, but remember that apples were the first flavor of the fall we as a nation embraced!


Read More

15 Apples We Love Down to Our Cores
The Origins of Pumpkin Spice and How It Became the Flavor of the Fall

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