Each year around this time, it seems as if pumpkin spice products become not just popular, but omnipresent.
Starbucks addicts have been wielding their pumpkin spice lattes, or PSLs, for two weeks now, inspiring the hashtag #PSLisBack.
And it’s not just your lattes.
pumpkin spice flavoring has infiltrated practically every aisle at the grocery store, from yogurt to gum to hummus. Hummus!
IS NOTHING SACRED?
Do we all have PSD (pumpkin spice disorder)?
Are some of those products as gross as they sound?
We at Go Columbia were wondering all of the above, so we risked pumpkin-induced gastrointestinal distress and tasted several products found here in the Columbia area.
Following is what our taste testers had to say about all the pumpkin spice spoils of the season, including which were autumn must-haves and which were pumpkin-spiced abominations.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Starbucks pumpkin spice latte
Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte is now made with the real thing. Instead of caramel coloring, the PSL now has actual pumpkin puree.
Dwaun: You can taste the syrup! I don’t know if that’s part of it…
Sarah: That’s supposed to be the puree.
Harrison: The puree is not pureed enough. It tastes like everything white girls are raving about.
Jane: I just instantly grew Uggs on my feet.
The verdict: Not the best coffee drink we’ve ever had, but preferable to no coffee at all.
Cromer’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Popcorn
Jane: I don’t appreciate the salty and sweet combo.
Sarah: I’d probably eat that whole bag. But it doesn’t taste like pumpkin.
Harrison: It tastes like caramel popcorn. They really undersold the pumpkin.
Dwaun: It tastes like an after-school snack. This would be good for a party.
Harrison: I’d attend Dwaun’s party.
The verdict: Is it delicious? Absolutely. Is it pumpkin-y? Not at all.
Harpoon Brewery Pumpkin Cider
Jane: I actually like that. It just tastes like cider.
Sarah: You could probably get drunk off of enough of it.
Harrison: The real, important question.
Dwaun: This is a drink I’d have to nurse throughout the night.
Harrison: What time does that roll around?
Dwaun: Let’s not get into those specifics. (Laughs nervously.)
The verdict: OK, let’s be honest, this was an excuse to drink at work.
Southern Barrel Brewing Pumpkin Ale
Jane: Brewed in Bluffton, of all places.
Harrison: (Takes a sip) Whoo! … Whoo!
Jane: It’s very bitter.
Dwaun: Ack! It’s terrible.
Harrison: I like it!
Sarah: And Harrison likes beer.
Harrison: It’s very hoppy. It has an IPA-ish type deal. It’s really good.
Dwaun: You just take that one home then.
The verdict: See above verdict.
Pumpkin Spice Latte M&M’s
Jane: Apparently these are a hit, because I got the last bag at Target.
Sarah: These are pretty hearty in size for M&M’s.
Harrison: Those are just gross.
Jane: They have a weird aftertaste.
Harrison: Maybe they could’ve stopped at the pumpkin spice, but then they added the latte, and it was too much. You know what I’m saying?
Sarah: I don’t think they taste like pumpkin. Or latte. Or chocolate.
The verdict: Really not good. We figured M&M’s in any form had to be good. But no.
Harvest Pumpkin Salsa
Harrison: We could not find pumpkin chips. Someone get on that.
Jane: It’s a sweet salsa. It is reminiscent of pumpkin.
Sarah: This salsa is the fall equivalent to pineapple salsa in the summer.
Harrison: I wouldn’t buy it, I’ll say that.
Sarah: But if Dwaun had it at his party, I would eat it.
Jane: Or if it were on sale. Only if it were on sale.
The verdict: Better than expected, especially if someone else buys it.
Bruegger’s pumpkin bagels with pumpkin-flavored cream cheese
Sarah to Jane: (holding half a bagel) Want to eat this “Lady and the Tramp”-style?
Jane: I’m just going to take a piece.
Sarah: Yes! So good!
Dwaun: Do we just like bagels and carbs?
Sarah: I do like bagels and carbs. And the cream cheese is good, too.
Harrison: I like butter on my bagel. So maybe if this was pumpkin spiced butter…
Jane: He only puts beer on his bagel.
The verdict: Yummy. No complaints here.
Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Cheesecake Square doughnuts
Harrison: You gotta first appreciate the artistry that goes into these. Dunkin’ punkins.
Dwaun: I don’t know what that tastes like.
Harrison: I’m not getting pumpkin.
Jane: I don’t like that filling. Blech. The filling is like pumpkin’s redneck cousin. It just doesn’t cut it.
Dwaun: If my doughnut were a celebrity, it would be Tara Reid. It’s not all the way bad, but you can see why people think it’s bad.
Jane: My doughnut is Kid Rock. He’s a fake Southerner, and this is fake pumpkin.
Harrison: My doughnut is Lindsay Lohan.
Dwaun: Making a comeback?
Harrison: No. Started out good, looks good, but just can’t act. Sorry, Lindsay.
Sarah: Krispy Kreme would have done it better.
The verdict: We’re considering developing a pumpkin spice allergy after this one.
Peanut Butter & Co. pumpkin spice peanut butter
Sarah: (reads ingredients) We’ve got peanuts, dried cane syrup, palm oil, pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Harrison: I hate peanut butter.
Jane: You hate peanut butter? What do you eat? Pizza and chicken fingers all day?
Harrison: And beer.
Jane: You’re weird.
Sarah: There’s no pumpkin in here. I can’t find it.
Jane: Oh wait, I get a little of the spice at the end.
Dwaun: I like crunchy peanut butter. So I’d never buy this anyway.
The verdict: Peanut butter has no business being pumpkin-spiced. And Harrison has no business disliking peanut butter.
The Fresh Market pumpkin spice pretzels
Harrison: Again, I taste no pumpkin.
Dwaun: I don’t either.
Sarah: No pumpkin. Meh.
Jane: They just taste like yogurt, not pumpkin, which I appreciate.
Sarah: I mean, they don’t suck.
The verdict: Definitely inferior to the original pretzel, but at this point, who can tell? We’ve reached our pumpkin saturation point.
You don’t have to take our word on all these products – taste them for yourself.
Some of these items can be found in multiple retail outlets, but we’re noting here where we purchased them. Best of all, everything is affordable.
Pumpkin pie spice popcorn: Cromer’s, 1700 Huger St., Columbia; www.cromers.com
Pumpkin beer: Craft and Draft, 2706 Devine St., Columbia; www.craftanddraftbeer.com
Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms: Target, multiple locations; www.target.com
Pumpkin spice pretzels, Harvest pumpkin salsa, Peanut Butter & Co. pumpkin spice peanut butter: Fresh Market, 4840 Forest Drive, Columbia; www.thefreshmarket.com
Pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese spread: Bruegger’s Bagels, multiple locations; www.brueggers.com
Pumpkin Cheesecake Square Doughnuts: Dunkin' Donuts, multiple locations; www.dunkindonuts.com
Pumpkin cider: Total Wine & More, 275 Harbison Blvd.; www.totalwine.com
Pumpkin Spice Latte: Starbucks, multiple locations; www.starbucks.com
Meet our staff members and taste testers
Jane Dail: Anti-pumpkin and pumpkin spice. Pro-puppies and proper grammar usage.
Harrison Cahill: Put a pumpkin on his head for the cover photo. Need we say more?
Sarah Ellis: Actually likes most pumpkin foods. Trustworthiness questionable.
Dwaun Sellers: Went on a juice cleanse immediately after this tasting.