Pumpkin spice. Did you read that with disdain? Because I wrote it to be dripping with contempt. Go ahead and reread it with your best disdainful inner voice.
I may lose a lot of you on this. I may even anger my colleagues. But I do not like pumpkin flavoring. Why would so many people be upset about this? Well, Illinois just so happens to be the top grower and producer of pumpkins, pumpkin filling and all the other pumpkiny products that fill the shelves this time of year. Most of this production happens in Tazewell County near Morton.
You may have heard the news that in 2020 we are now in a pumpkin filling shortage. The grocery store shelves are devoid of pumpkin filling for making all types of pumpkin-ish treats. If you can call them treats. Now don't get me wrong, if someone puts a slice of pumpkin pie or pumpkin muffin in front of me, I will eat it. No need to let food go to waste.
If you are in a panic about the pumpkin shortage, not to worry.
According to our commercial agriculture specialist, Dr. Elizabeth Wahle, pumpkin harvest in Illinois has begun. So far it seems harvest is running about average for this year. Very soon, we should have plenty of pumpkin filling and flavoring to satisfy all your autumn and holiday desires. So, no need to hoard pumpkin filling!
At a time when everyone is divided and arguing about everything, let me add to that. And this may be the last straw for some. I am far from anti-autumn. I love the fall, but my flavor of choice is not pumpkin. It is apple. Yes, we are setting up camps for apple versus pumpkin.
So why apples? Well, first they are delicious. (Except Red Delicious. I love apples, but I'm not blind that some types taste like cardboard.) Have you ever eaten a freshly-picked apple right off the tree? The sweet crisp crunch as juice runs down your arm. Walking down the orchard as the chill air keeps a perk in your step. Try eating a pumpkin right off the vine. You can't!
Is it legal to not like apple pie? Sorry pumpkin pie, your texture is like eating silky mud.
And of course, apple cider. Need I say more?
One very common argument people will give in support of apples is this fruit is an American tradition, but here is where I must preside fairly over both fall flavors. The apples typically grown for consumption are not native to North America. Yet, pumpkins had been cultivated by Native Americans for generations before any European settlers set foot on this continent. So, you may have me there.
In terms of which camp hails from this part of the world, pumpkins are more American than any apple. Plus, pumpkin production supports a lot of jobs and a major industry for Illinois. Also, everyone else in my house loves pumpkin pie and apple pie. In fact, as a show of gluttony, my children will request both for their plates. Okay, perhaps pumpkins aren't all that bad.
Maybe we don't have to choose. Maybe both apple and pumpkin have their place in our society. Even if you won't find pumpkin-flavored items on my plate, you certainly will see them readily enjoyed by those around me. And you know, if there is any leftover pumpkin pie on my kids' plates, I just can't throw it away. Someone has to eat it. No food goes to waste in my house. Pass the whipped cream.
Good Growing Tip of the Week: If growing your own pumpkins, vine health is critical to storage of pie pumpkins or jack-o'-lanterns. Often a pumpkin pulled from a sickly or dead vine has a shorter storage life than one cut from a healthy vine.