Pumpkin everything– love it or hate it?

Posted at 10:16 AM, Oct 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-09 12:16:17-04

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Cinderella’s fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a golden carriage. If only we were so lucky.

Fresh from our critique of Olive Garden, we sampled some of the many pumpkin-spiced food and beverages on the market.

There are now so many of them, there might as well be a pumpkin ETF. The ticker symbol PMKN is available, in case BlackRock, State Street or Vanguard is interested.

Starbucks, of course, would be the biggest holding in PMKN. It arguably deserves credit (or blame if you ask us) for pumpkin mania. It introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003.

The rest is history. It is now so popular that it’s known simply by the acronym PSL. So Starbucks is where we decided to start our Great Pumpkin taste test.

Let’s just say that we don’t understand the phenomenon. There are signs that Americans are getting bored with the gourd.

Research firm Technomic found 98 limited-time offers involving pumpkin at the top 500 restaurant chains it tracks in August and September. Last year, there were 170. And in 2012, there were 190.

Most of the pumpkin offerings are desserts or coffee beverages. Maybe Americans are tired of sugary drinks.

The PSL was cloyingly sweet. It’s 420 calories and 49 grams of sugar for a grande with whole milk and whipped cream because you only live once.

Cristina wanted to take several laps around the Central Park reservoir to burn off the calories. Paul would have rather had a latte flavored like some other kind of fall or winter gourd. A Delicata Squash Spice Latte perhaps?

But more than 200 million PSLs have been sold since they debuted. So what do we know?

Surprisingly, we found the pumpkin coffees at Dunkin’ Donuts to be much tastier. Paul particularly enjoyed the Pumpkin Creme Brulee Latte. Cristina still would have rather had her coffee spiked with some rye to counter the sweetness.

The pumpkin donut was a different story. It was unnaturally orange. It looked like something Homer Simpson baked in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

Cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves! Oh my! Pumpkins have invaded the grocery store as well.

Mondelez introduced the limited edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo this fall. We tried it. Paul dipped it in some pumpkin-flavored frozen yogurt for good measure.

The Oreos looked pumpkin-y but didn’t particularly taste like it. Paul prefers the Pumpkin Joe-Joes from Trader Joe’s.

For what it’s worth, the CNNMoney newsroom descended on the pumpkin loaf cake from Entenmann’s like a pack of wolves. So I guess we should add Mexican baked goods giant (and Entenmann’s owner) Grupo Bimbo to the PMKN ETF too.

And then there’s pumpkin beer. All the big brewers have latched on to the pumpkin craze. Anheuser-Busch has one for its Shock Top brand while Molson Coors has a Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale. There’s a Sam Adams pumpkin beer too.

Pumpkins and beer aren’t the worst combination — except when you have it after a pumpkin spice coffee, doughnut and cookie marathon.

But enough is enough already! Pumpkins are good for pies. Let’s leave it at that.

Then again, at least we didn’t try pumpkin-spiced e-cigarettes. They actually exist!

CNNMoney’s Patrick Gillespie contributed reporting for this story.

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