All The Pumpkin!

All The Pumpkin!

These days, nothing says Fall is here more than a trip to the pumpkin patch with a pumpkin spice latte in hand and followed by a slice of pumpkin pie at home.  Pumpkins truly take center stage this time of year - from our foods, to our fragrances and even our home decor.  But how exactly did this humble orange gourd become the official symbol of fall?

Nothing says Fall like a mountain of pumpkins!

The pumpkin got its English name from the is generally attributed to the French explorer Jacques Cartier who reported seeing them during a 1584 voyage to the St. Lawrence river valley.  Cartier referred to them as "gros melons" in his diary - a term which was translated to "pompion" in English, eventually morphing into the word "pumpkin" that we use today.  The plant itself is a winter squash native to north and central America.

Two of the most longstanding pumpkin related traditions are, of course, the Jack 'o Lantern and Pumpkin Pie.  The tradition of carving pumpkins is attributed to Irish immigrants to the United States - the practice of carving vegetable lanterns for "All Hallow's Eve" to ward off "Stingy Jack", a common character in Irish folklore.  Originally, in Ireland, large turnips or swedes were used to create the lanterns, but Irish settlers in North America found the pumpkin to be superior due to its size and less dense interior.  Eventually, the pumpkin became the favored vegetable for Jack 'O Lanterns, supplanting the turnip and swede in Ireland and the rest of the UK.

A traditional Irish Jack O' Lantern made from a turnip.

Although it is most commonly associated with the American Thanksgiving holiday, the Pumpkin Pie also traces its origins to Europe.  After they were first brought from North America to the continent, cooks quickly found that pumpkin made an excellent pie filler and became a popular ingredient in France and Tudor England.

The early Pumpkin pies were a far cry from their modern day version - the English pumpkin pie was much more akin to the traditional savory pies that continue to be popular - the pumpkin itself was used as the container and stuffed with apples, spices and sugar and then baked whole.  Early American versions were similar - with a sort of "soup" made from the pumpkin flesh baked and served inside of a pumpkin shell.  This early version eventually evolved into the custard-like dessert that many enjoy during the holidays today. 

The classic contemporary Pumpkin pie.

After the Civil War, many Southern cooks shifted towards making Pecan and Sweet Potato pies for the Thanksgiving holiday as Pumpkin pie was considered to be a "Yankee" dish.  This was seen as a way of resisting the Northen culture that many felt was being imposed during Reconstruction.

These days, the most controversial Fall pumpkin-based food would have to be the Pumpkin Spice Latte.  First offered by Starbucks in 2003, the history of spiced Pumpkin recipes dates as far back as 1796 with the first documented recipes using pumpkin and a variation of the contemporary blend of "pumpkin pie spice". 

Pumpkin Spice Lattes were developed as a companion to the Peppermint Mocha and Eggnog seasonal latte drinks.  Starbucks recipe experts chose the recipe by first sampling bites of pumpkin pie and washing it down with a sip of espresso to tease out the best combination of spice flavors.  Although it was originally named the "Fall Harvest Latte", PSL (short for pumpkin spice latte) became its internal nickname and soon became the official name of the drink.  The PSL remains the most popular seasonal drink on the Starbucks menu having generated an estimated $1.3 billion dollars in profits over its lifetime!

Love 'em or hate 'em, Pumpkin Spice Latte is here to stay.

Pumpkin's popularity isn't just limited to decorations and foods!  The pumpkin fragrance has become a staple in the catalogs of many perfumers in the last decade or so.  If you are a Haus fan, you know that we certainly love that note and have no shortage of pumpkin blends.  According to testing done by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago, the scent of pumpkin elicited the strongest reaction in male test subjects, especially when blended with lavender. 

With all those reasons to love pumpkins, we here at the Haus say "get that vente PSL and drink it while carving a Jack O' Lantern and wearing your favorite pumpkin perfume!"  The Halloween season only comes once a year, so go for the gusto!

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