For me the first sign of fall is not a change in the weather, especially here in Florida, but the sudden ubiquitous appearance of pumpkin flavored and scented goods. I had a pumpkin smash from Jamba Juice today and it was like drinking a pumpkin pie. It was delicious, but far from the healthy drink I intended to buy for lunch. Sure the orange squash itself is full of vitamins, but the amount of sugar in their yogurt flavored smoothy outweighs any health benefit. Oh, but the pure pleasure of drinking sweet pumpkin for lunch was blissful.
So why does the pumpkin represent the onset of fall? And is pumpkin an all American vegetable? It did originate in the “New World” and according to Archeologists variations of squash and pumpkins were cultivated along rivers and creek banks along with sunflowers and beans. This took place long before the emergence of maize. Native Americans used the sweet flesh in numerous ways: roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. They ate pumpkin seeds and these seeds were also used for medicine. The blossoms were added to stews. Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour.
But the use of the pumpkin didn’t stop there. The hard shells were cleaned and dried then used for bowls and storage containers.
Native Americans introduced this important food source to the Pilgrims since pumpkins stored well and lasted through the winter months. The Pilgrims cut the top off scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with honey, cream, eggs and spices. They then placed the top back on and buried it in the cooking fire. When it was blackened they lifted it from earth then scooped the contents out along with the cooked flesh of the shell. It was like a custard and not too far off from my pumpkin smash from Jamba Juice, minus the extra sugar.
The pumpkin season seemed to arrive earlier this year along with new innovations in incorporating pumpkin into awkward places. Take pumpkin peanuts for example. Should a peanut taste like pumpkin or a peanut. What about pumpkin beer or coffee. And the traditional pumpkin pancakes, bread, muffins,scones, ice cream, cookies and cheesecake. Pumpkin shower gel and candles are abound at Bath & Body Works. I could get “pumpkined out ” before Thanksgiving even arrives.
Pumpkin pie is and always will be my favorite pie. I’ll have another seasonal Jamba pumpkin smash, but I’ll skip all the other innovations and patiently wait for the pie on Thanksgiving and Christmas.