(top bunch of photos) Mmmm. From a pumpkin spice latte to pumpkin spice muffins, pies, pancakes, dough nuts, bread and creamy soups, these wonderful smells and tastes tell you it’s fall. (row two left) Raw pumpkin spice–see the recipe below. (row three) Just a sampling of the many, many products that add pumpkin spice flavoring this time of year. Most are a lot of fun but pumpkin spice Doritos, even for me, is over the top. (row four) Speaking of over the top, really? These products need pumpkin spice flavoring & smells?? Really??? Hahaha… Turns out these are all fake. The creations of people with a working knowledge of Photoshop and a bunch of time on their hands making a statement on the pumpkin spice craze. BTW, the pumpkin spice Dorito’s are fake, too. Whew!
Each fall, as the leaves turn golden, footballs start flying and the crisp autumn air carries the scent of pine, I anxiously wait for Jackie to bring home one of my favorites – the fixens to make pumpkin pie, of course it must also include the “a la mode!” Everything is always better with a la mode! You know me, and my love of food. To be honest, I think this pumpkin spice craze is kind of funny – but then find myself stopping to “sample” a latte, eating an entire box of pumpkin-spiced Cheerios or the whole package of orange and black fall flavored Oreos. Scientists and nutritionists call the current trendiness of pumpkin spice “a fantastic example of the psychology of consumer behavior and fads.” Here’s some fun facts, science and links to some great recipes – enjoy those lattes!
- History shows that pumpkin spice-like combinations have been used for millennia in various cultures,” says Kantha Shelke, an adjunct professor of regulatory science and food safety at Johns Hopkins University. “Similar mixtures of spices are used in Indian masala chai and Middle Eastern baklava. These mixtures are often used in celebratory occasions, most often to ease the digestive impacts of overindulgence.”
- The sweet smell and tantalizing taste of pumpkin spice triggers a nostalgic emotional response in our brains. Spice blend has been used in popular baked goods for quite some time, but mostly in home-baked goods. Since these are popular spice combinations, it’s very likely we have encountered some or all of them combined in a favorite baked good in a comforting situation, like a family gathering, early in life. (ever walk into a home that’s smells like cinnamon or hot apple cider?)
- Pumpkin spice seems to have emerged as a common seasonal scent and taste in the home and food market a couple of decades ago, when spiced pumpkin candles grew in popularity. Back then, a few high-profile companies, like Starbucks, ran some super successful experiments, and then you add in the fantastic marketing strategies, and you’ve got a fad that turns into a trend.
- Most pumpkin spice mixtures don’t involve an actual pumpkin. Typically, it contains ground cinnamon, nutmeg, dry ginger and clove or allspice mixed together.
- When many food companies use a pumpkin spice flavor, they often develop a synthetic version with various compounds and aromas designed to trick your brain into thinking you consumed a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices. Included in many of these synthetic pumpkin spice flavors are top notes that mimic the aroma of butter browning with sugar, which creates an olfactory illusion of a freshly baked pumpkin pie.
- Starbucks first developed its pumpkin spice latte, known as the PSL, in early 2003. In a news release, Peter Dukes, the product manager who led the development of PSL, said, “Nobody knew back then that it would grow to be so big – It’s taken on a life of its own.” The seasonal beverage, which has its own verified Twitter and Instagram accounts, returned to stores nationwide last week for the fall.
- The marketing behind many pumpkin spice-flavored items, like the latte, condition our brains to expect that pumpkin spice is the flavor of fall and to anticipate the flavor’s arrival each season as something comforting.
- According to scientists, we don’t have innate odor responses. We learn odors through associations, but the associations we make with pumpkin spice are generally all very positive. Though, even without the seasonal marketing, the brain has a special response to pumpkin spice when the flavor is mixed with sugar. It’s kind of addictive.
- When an odor or flavor — and 80% of flavor is actually smell — is combined with sucrose or sugar consumption in a hungry person, the person learns at a subconscious, physiological level to associate that flavor with all the wonderful parts of food digestion. By combining the recognizable pumpkin spice flavor with sugar, we train your brain and body to remember how delicious the combination is – and as soon as you smell or even imagine pumpkin spice, our body has an anticipatory response and craves it.
- On the other hand, natural pumpkin spice mixtures without added sugars, fat or salt offers some potential health benefits if used in a pumpkin soup or to flavor vegetables. Pumpkin is a source of vitamin A, fiber and other nutrients. Spices are powerhouses of phytochemicals — chemicals that the plant makes to protect itself — that can afford us health and protection from many health issues. Like with any food, the amount consumed determines the experience and the benefits.
- All spices come from plants. There are no spices from the animal kingdom, so spices are perfect for vegetarians, vegans and those who follow Halal and Kosher diets.
- As with all good marketing, sometimes the manufacturers go a little too far with the pumpkin-spice trend – Just consider – Pumpkin Spiced (PS) Twistix Dental Chews for Pets, PS buttery blend margarine, PS Pringles, PS Bar soap, PS body powder, PS bagels, PS peanut butter and Milano cookies.
So, go ahead and enjoy your pumpkin spice and everything nice. And here’s a simple recipe to make your very own pumpkin spice at home (fresh is better!
- 3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
- 2 teaspoons Nutmeg
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Ground Allspice
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
- Splash of sugar
In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and sugar until well combined. Store in a small jar or container.