Summer is through, which means the start of our annual time to consume and/or complain about products flavored with pumpkin spice. It was in the mid-90s that this blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves started its rise to power, and there’s no stopping it now, really. Plus: did you know that hundreds of years ago pumpkin spice may have given us New York City?
The origins of pumpkin spice and how it became the flavor of fall (Washington Post)
The Dark And Murky History Of Pumpkin Spice (Chicagoist)
‘Pumpkin Spice’ Has Been a Thing for 3,500 Years (History.com)
Summer is through, so we now move to the next season, which is called Pumpkin Spice.
I’m old enough to remember when you’d buy a metal can of pumpkin spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves – for one reason only: pumpkin pie!
Ok, they’ve also been pretty useful for carrot cakes and sweet breads.
But pumpkin spice began its rise to power in the mid 1990s, when some enterprising coffee roasters in Florida featured these spices in one of their blends.
Other coffee roasters started doing the same, because why wouldn’t you, and once a certain giant coffee chain popularized the pumpkin spice latte, there was no turning back.
But we now have pumpkin spice hummus, vodka, Cheerios and – no joke – pet shampoo.
How does adding pumpkin spice to coffee lead us to the endless number of other pumpkin spice products? Because people buy them. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on pumpkin spice lattes alone, which is why the flavor of fall shows up in more and more products, and earlier and earlier each year.
There’s no stopping it, really. All you can do is ride it out, and hope that you don’t mistake the pumpkin spice pet shampoo for a latte.
The history of spices, by the way, is super interesting and often very surprising. History.com wrote about how nutmeg was so valuable back in 14th century Europe that a pound of the spice was worth seven oxen.
The Dutch traded their colony in North America, New Amsterdam, for a spice-rich island controlled by the British. So in a way, pumpkin spice gave us New York City.