This isn’t my fault.

A month or so back my boss came to me with a crazed gleam in his eye. “PUMPKINS!” He yelled.

I braced myself. I knew what was coming. He loves pumpkins.

“I love pumpkins!” He said. I nodded. “I want to run a feature on pumpkins,” he continued. “I want pumpkin pictures. Then I can say the newspapers are NOW WITH PUMPKIN SPICE!”

I ended up trying a variety of pumpkin-flavored treats for this feature. Pumpkin caramels and ice cream. They were good. They left me craving more.

During one afternoon when I was in an emotional funk, I went to the grocery store.

They were really selling the fall flavors — especially pumpkin. There were displays around the store — even pumpkin paper towels.

So I purchased some pumpkin coffee creamer.

Then I saw the pumpkin cream cheese. Sure, why not? Pumpkin cheesecake is good. I put it in my cart.

Then I also got pumpkin yogurt, toaster pastries and ice cream sandwiches.

I added the creamer to coffee and hot chocolate. It was bliss.

The cream cheese was good on sweets, I discovered. It paired well with sugar cookies and cinnamon toast. The yogurt and toaster pastries were surprisingly good. The ice cream sandwiches were tasty.

The other day while purchasing cans of pumpkin puree for baking, I found pumpkin spice soda… I had to have it. It was surprisingly good!

As I was standing in the kitchen that night cooking pumpkin pie bites while my mom and her friend watched a bad romance movie, it hit me… I’ve gone pumpkin crazy. But it’s not my fault. I blame my boss.

So I started doing some research.

Pumpkin pie spice is a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and clove. These are the spices that are added to the puree to make the celebrated pumpkin pie. These are also the traditional source of the pumpkin spice flavor.

Originally, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (known as PSL), and origin of the pumpkin spice craze, did not actually include any pumpkin flavor! It was just the spices.

According to an Aug. 17, 2015, article by John Kell on, it was not until 2015 that Starbucks started to add pumpkin puree to the drink.

Once I discovered this, I ended up down the rabbit hole. I began tasting my pumpkin treats with a new mindset. Instead of wondering, “Does this taste good?” I started to wonder, “Does this taste LIKE PUMPKIN?”

What I discovered was I was playing pumpkin roulette. There was no way to tell if what I was about to consume would taste like PUMPKIN or like NUTMEG. Nothing on any label gave it away. Most ingredient lists just said “natural and artificial flavors.”

Sometimes the names would be an indicator, but really it was anyone’s guess until you tasted it. Here’s what my taste buds said:

Pumpkin spice craft soda? Tasted like nutmeg.

Pumpkin pie toaster pastries? They tasted like pumpkin (and had pumpkin in the ingredient list).

Pumpkin cold brew iced coffee? I tasted no pumpkin, only nutmeg and cinnamon.

Pumpkin pie spice coffee creamer? Tasted like pumpkin.

I felt like a conspiracy nut. I texted all my friends. None of them understood what I was talking about, or why I cared, but suddenly I did.

I needed to know what I was buying! I wanted pumpkin flavors, but I was being served nutmeg!

So where do we go from here? Write to government officials and demand clarity in flavor branding? Continue talking about it to friends and family until I am involuntarily committed?

Or maybe I should just enjoy the seasonal flavors while they last and prepare myself for the inevitable switch over to peppermint for winter.

Christine Simmonds is the Assistant Editor of The Courier-Gazette. She has lived in Knox County most of her life.

The Courier-Gazette newspaper, Sept. 30, “now with pumpkin spice!” Photo by Christine Simmonds