It’s autumn now and there’s something in the air. There’s something in my latte too, and it’s not the flavour of coffee.
It’s the season of the pumpkin and all you have to do is look around for a big orange squash. They’re as likely to be found in a farm field as in your field of vision. Or right there, spicing up your favourite fancy coffee like it was always meant to be there.
Ask anybody. I asked Ingrid Machtemes, owner of Quiltessential on McKenney Avenue.
“I don’t know what it is about pumpkins. It’s orange and not everybody can wear orange, but they love orange,” she said. “It’s happy so they want the pumpkins.”
They want pumpkins. You want pumpkins. And I want pumpkins too.
You could buy your basic pumpkin at any grocery store or greenhouse such as Hole’s at the Enjoy Centre. They have your regular orange ones all the way to weird, white, warty ones.
If you like to have a little fun with pumpkins, you could head down to Prairie Gardens in Bon Accord. The Pumpkin Festival is on this weekend, didn’t you know? This is the place with the weapon of choice for all us pirates of the farmyard. The pumpkin cannon is all primed, pumped up and ‘pumpkined up’ to blast away at the wooden boat in the middle of the target zone. Hundreds of pumpkins, big and small, meet their pulpy, disgusting demise on this battlefield, but it’s all in good fun.
Machtemes, like the rest of us, has got a case of the OSF too. Orange squash fever in her shop means a pumpkin pillow that she says is a hot item in the fabric arts world. By the way, the pumpkin pillow kit is $25 and they’re selling like, well, you know… pumpkin pies.
“It’s the same with food. We all cook with pumpkins: pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin-spiced lattes … it just gives you that warm buzz just thinking it’s a pumpkin. It’s just that happiness. Pumpkins are everywhere!”
She even related how her daughter-in-law is Japanese and has pumpkin recipes that are entirely different from what we have here in North America. “They make pickled pumpkins and all kinds of other things.”
But Peter Piper doesn’t always pine for pickled pumpkins. A bit of bitter squash is best served with a blast of sugar, I always say. That’s part of what makes pumpkin-flavoured pastries, confections, and other consumables baked or brewed so unrelentingly delicious.
They’re as sweet as anything in the candy store, I do declare. Or the bakery. Grandin Bakery’s Michelle Hooimeyer confirms that pumpkin is the ‘fave flave’ of fall and resistance is futile.
“The pumpkin cupcakes are a new feature item for this Thanksgiving,” she said, noting that they just went on sale on Thursday. “Every year we come up with some sort of pumpkin-y item in the fall. Last year was pumpkin tarts; this year is pumpkin cupcakes.”
You can smell them, can’t you? You can practically taste them. They’re that delicious. You should go get some.
They also have hand-decorated pumpkin-shaped cookies on the racks. Fair disclosure: they only have the pumpkin look, not the taste.
Of course, the pumpkin pies are a big item too, and they are just hot out of the oven today. They get special orders for them throughout the year, confirming that the massive fruit has a fan base that borders on the need for an addictions help group.
And that’s where the granddaddy of them all comes in: pumpkin-spiced lattes. I must confess that I had never had one of these much-ballyhooed drinks before Wednesday, so I took one for the team. I headed down to La Crema CaffĂ© on St. Thomas Street and ordered one.
When I think of coffee, I don’t generally think, ‘Hey, you know what would be great? Let’s put a pumpkin in the pot and see what happens.’”
Well, that lattĂ© was gone in less than a minute. Server Alyssa Thiessen said it’s all in the syrup, which pumps out a dose of sugar and flavour – natural and artificial, mind you.
That syrup is the good stuff. She knows that when summer is wrapping up, that is when the crowd is going to start lining up asking for their pumpkin fix. “It’s easy to get someone hooked,” she confessed, adding that they start serving it about two to three weeks before October.
“That’s when people start to get more interested. People are aware of when it comes out. If anyone is serving it a lot sooner then they know that’s where they can go.”
But everybody has their own tastes and Thiessen is on the Nay side. Pumpkin-flavoured things just aren’t her thing.
“I’ve had it a few times. Personally, I’m not a fan, but my girlfriends … they are all about it. Some people just love it simply because it is a seasonal thing. You only get it for a limited time. That’s why I think it is such a fad and a trend. It’s become more popular and out there.”