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Serving: IL

Pumpkin spice and everything nice

Charlyn Fargo Ware pumpkin bread on cutting board
PUMPKIN BREAD: Can you smell it?
What’s Cooking in Illinois: Pumpkin has exploded in food products and a “season” that stretches far earlier than October and later than Thanksgiving. That’s good news for Illinois pumpkin farmers — and home cooks.

‘Tis the season for boots, flannel, fall leaves, combines in the field and — in case you haven’t noticed — everything pumpkin.

It seems to have started with a pumpkin spice latte and exploded into pumpkin kale chips, pumpkin soup, pumpkin snaps, pumpkin cheesecake sandwich cookies, pumpkin flax granola, toasted pumpkin loops whole-grain cereal, pumpkin spice Keurig cups and pumpkin spice coffee creamer. And then there’s baking: pumpkin muffins, bread, pancakes and even pumpkin waffles.

And to think it used to be only in pies! Pumpkin has exploded into an entire subculture of food marketing, which sprinkles a little pumpkin fairy dust on a product to make it a hit. The number of pumpkin spice-related items introduced in restaurants and supermarkets doubled in the last few years, according to Data Essentials, a company that tracks marketing trends.

Pumpkin “season” starts earlier and lasts longer each year, too, as 20% of all pumpkin food items are now introduced in August and last well beyond Thanksgiving.

Illinois farmers should be happy. The state produces more pumpkins than any other. Some 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin is packed in the Nestle/Libby plant in Morton, Ill.

How did we get here?

The first reference to pumpkin spice goes back to 1796, the year Amelia Simmons published “American Cookery,” regarded as the nation’s first cookbook. She includes a recipe for “pumpkin pudding,” a pie made with stewed pumpkin and spiced with ginger and nutmeg.

Pumpkin also invokes warm, generous feelings. According to Cindy Ott, author of “Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon,” pumpkin represents a sense of goodness, natural abundance and old values that people think are good.

That’s partly how it’s become so popular. The number of pumpkin dishes on restaurant menus doubled from 2005 to 2015, and today it’s even higher.

My personal favorite is still pumpkin bread. It brings back memories of my mom making a special recipe from her friend Henrietta each year and sharing it with neighbors. It was always a hit.

Now that I’m a dietitian, I’ve cut back the oil and sugar a bit and sometimes add some whole-wheat flour, but it’s still a great recipe. I’ve also included a recipe that combines zucchini and pumpkin in a muffin, boosting your veggies and fiber.

Henrietta’s (Modified) Pumpkin Bread

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 cup pecans
3 cups all-purpose flour, or 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole-wheat
1 teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon\
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three loaf pans or one large bundt pan. Mix oil, sugar, eggs and pumpkin. Combine all dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture. Add pecans and mix in. Pour batter into pans. Bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  

Pumpkin Zucchini Muffins

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1½ cups whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins or Craisins
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup skim milk
½ cup agave nectar or honey
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line them with paper liners. Combine oats, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, raisins (or Craisins), baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda in a bowl.

Meanwhile, mix zucchini, pumpkin, milk, agave nectar or honey, eggs and oil in a separate bowl; stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in a preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.

Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield. Send recipe ideas to her at [email protected] The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

TAGS: Farm Life
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