Pumpkin. You either love it or you hate it, but you can’t avoid it this time of year.
Walk into any coffee shop or bakery and you’re likely met with the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin-inspired coffees and pastries. Grocery stores offer a tower of canned pumpkin, along with pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin ale, and even pumpkin spiced Cheerios.
It’s the flavor of fall, and it stirs nostalgia, reminding us of pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, football and sweatshirt weather.
Kayla Scheck is from Morton, considered the pumpkin capital of the world for producing 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin. The sophomore biology major loves pumpkin ice cream and iced pumpkin coffee.
“I think it should be a year-round food,” she said.
Just no pumpkin pie for her.
“I was in a pumpkin pie eating contest and since then, I can’t eat it,” she said.
Senior Grace Fisher remembers her first pumpkin spice latte. She was only in middle school when she got her hands on one. Now the food blogger samples pumpkin everything and writes about it. She adds pumpkin to her oatmeal, and has made pumpkin chive cookies.
“I do everything I can with pumpkin,” she said. “I’m trying to find things I can do to fill the time when I’m not doing classwork.”
Junior Tucker Wheaton has a different take on the fleshy fruit that many think is a vegetable.
“I do not like any of it,” she said. “I feel like such an outsider this time of year.”
Junior Alana Born counted down the days until pumpkin brews returned to the Starbucks menu.
“The first day they got pumpkin cream cold brew, I was on it,” she said. “It was a Wednesday morning. I came here first (Bone Student Center) and they didn’t have it so I went looking for it.”
Illinois State’s Ciarra Kent, dietetics program coordinator, buys a case of pumpkin every year.
“You either love it or you hate it, there’s really no in-between,” she said. “I happen to love pumpkin everything.”
But rather than focus on sweets like pumpkin bars, she likes the savory flavor in soups, and roasted pumpkin. Pumpkin is high in fiber, Vitamin A, and antioxidants. It’s good for children with food allergies, and sick pets. And, she said it can be substituted for oil, butter, or eggs in baked goods.
“It has a lot of uses that most people don’t think about,” she said. “To make pumpkin soup out of canned pumpkin takes about 6 minutes.”
She recently had her first pumpkin donut of the season.
“It’s a novelty this time of year. If we had it all year round people wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about it. It’s definitely something to look forward to.”
Junior Taely Bui has tried pumpkin coffee, but he wouldn’t stand in line for it.
“I like pumpkin but I don’t have to have it,” he said.
Horticulture Professor Dr. David Kopsell said Illinois has an ideal climate for growing pumpkins, which are easy to grow in your backyard and don’t take up a lot of space. His wife’s pumpkin chili is his favorite fall food. He agrees the association with fall is part of pumpkin’s appeal, that and the fact it has Halloween in its corner.
“A lot of it goes back to your childhood and the connotations with fall and Halloween. It’s seasonal, like sweet corn. But sweet corn doesn’t have a holiday like Halloween. Fourth of July is nice, but it just doesn’t have the same feel.”