October 1st is National Pumpkin Spice Day. Not to be confused with National Pumpkin Day on October 26, October 1st is a day to celebrate a blend of spices that often includes cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and mace.
National Pumpkin Spice Day will be celebrated on Sunday, October 1, 2023.
This observance comes at a time of year when it’s fun to good-naturedly poke fun at the “sudden” appearance of pumpkin-spice flavored coffee, mixed drinks, pastry, and other desserts; National Pumpkin Spice Day has become an informal American tradition based around a blend of spices that came from Southeast Asia but which were quickly adapted to western cooking traditions.
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Some sources speculate that National Pumpkin Spice Day has been around “at least” since 2015, but details about the origins of this day are few. What we know more about is when pumpkin spice began showing up in western cook books.
One mention in a book called American Cookery by Amelia Simmons comes as early as 1796; Simmons had a recipe for pumpkin pudding which included many of the spices blended today as “pumpkin spice”. This cookbook is thought to be one of the earliest (if not THE earliest) American cookbooks.
Some sources say that pumpkin spice wasn’t actively marketed as such until the 1930s when the McCormick company began marketing it as a pumpkin pie blend. And then there was the debut of the popular drink known as the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, which may be responsible for igniting the American appetite for that flavor combination during the fall and winter months.
The short answer is no. There is no pumpkin in pumpkin spice. The spices are applied to the pumpkin rather than being added to something else to make a dish taste like it has pumpkin in it. Think of pumpkin spice like a five spice blend and you get a more accurate idea of how it works.
Pumpkin spice enhances the flavor of any puree, pudding, or other preparation–not limited to pumpkin but definitely offering a more unique spin on it.
Goodhousekeeping.com and other sources confirm that pumpkins are considered a fruit and not a vegetable. The grounds for this include the fact that pumpkins, like strawberries, start out as flowers. The State of New Hampshire declared the pumpkin its official state fruit in 2006.
The common answer, “anything is bad for you in large enough quantities” may be true, but pumpkin spice is typically harmless for those who do not have food allergies involving any of the ingredients. What is in pumpkin spice?
That depends on the blend but typically includes cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and sometimes mace. According to the official site for the nonprofit academic healthcare organization Cedars-Sinai, pumpkin spice can offer “a healthy dose of antioxidants and antimicrobial agents”.
And when that spice goes into pumpkin, you get a combination of vitamins, minerals, and the antioxidants mentioned above.
Some believe the way to start is to carve a Halloween pumpkin and harvest the flesh to make a pie or pudding with. This is not a terrible idea, but carving pumpkins are typically thought to be less tasty than others. You may find that pumpkin flesh from a carving pumpkin lacks a certain something depending on where you get it and when.
One thing is for sure–don’t consume carved pumpkin that has been allowed to sit at room temperature for 24 hours or more.
You don’t have to carve a pumpkin to enjoy pumpkin spice; your local coffee shop likely offers a brew for the month of October that will feed your cravings for a pumpkin latte or something similar.
One fun way to celebrate is to find or create your own recipe for pumpkin spice and try making a pie, pudding, cocktail, or coffee. Remember that pumpkins grown for pies are smaller and fleshier than their carving counterparts; seek out these smaller varieties for the kitchen and leave the really big versions for the front porch.