Like magic, every year on September 1st the store shelves are awash in pumpkin spice products. Everything from coffee and cookies to lip balm and shampoo is wrapped in pretty orange packaging and stuffed full of pumpkin flavoring until it is deemed worthy of the coveted pumpkin spice label.
But what if you don't like pumpkin spice? Or what if you enjoy pumpkin spice well enough, you just don't want to have one flavor monopolize an entire season? Is there anything out there for people who want something a little different this fall?
There is! Fall brings with it a wide variety of flavors that are both delicious and specific to the season. If you want something tasty this year that has never touched a pumpkin you should consider one of these amazing options:
Figs tend to have two big harvest seasons per year. The first is in the spring and known as the breba crop, though the figs produced during this harvest are often smaller in number and of lesser quality than the second harvest. The primary harvest takes place in late August and early September, making ripe figs an excellent alternative to pumpkin spice for your desserts this fall.
This might seem like a difficult flavor to find outside of a box of Fig Newtons, but if you know where to look figs can be an excellent addition to your fall flavor profile. Because figs are difficult to transport when ripe they are often used in processed foods like jams, jellies, and the cookies that made them famous.
Often you can find them in the dried fruit section of the store as well, allowing you to throw a handful into your morning oatmeal for a fall-themed breakfast instead of opting for the box of pumpkin spice oatmeal packets in the cereal aisle of your grocery store.
Fennel is the perfect choice if you're looking for a fall flavor that's a little more versatile. Fennel can be used dozens of different ways, from using the bulbs to make a fennel salad to flavoring an Italian sausage with the seeds. It is even one of the components of licorice powder, which just goes to show the wide variety of dishes you can make with this particular plant.
Fennel doesn't grow well in the heat, which means fall is the peak growing season for fennel. Every part of the fennel plant is edible, making it an excellent addition to all sorts of dishes this time of year.
Like the figs mentioned above, pomegranates grow in arid climates and their harvest season begins as September rolls around. The best place in your local grocery store to find pomegranate is likely the juice aisle.
Though it might be the most popular way, juice isn't the only way to enjoy this particular fruit. The seeds are commonly used in yogurt, salads, trail mix, and other pre-made products. They are also a popular addition to many Indian and Pakistani dishes.
Pomegranates have been an important fruit for multiple cultures for many thousands of years. According to Greek mythology, when Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and brought to the underworld she was tricked into eating pomegranate seeds, forcing her to stay with Hades for eternity.
This caused her mother, Demeter, to become so depressed she stopped doing her job as the goddess of agriculture and left humanity to starve. Zeus stepped in and created a compromise, allowing Persephone to spend two-thirds of the year with her mother and the winter months in the underworld. Pomegranate seeds were most likely chosen as part of this creation story because their harvest season begins as the cold weather arrives.
Cranberries have been a fall staple since long before the first colonists arrived in America. Originally used in pemmican and blended into a sauce served on various meats, cranberries have been a cold weather staple for many years.
Because of their natural tartness cranberries are almost always combined with sugar or another, sweeter fruit to balance out their sour flavor. Dried cranberries are common in baked goods and trail mix while fresh cranberries are often turned into jellies, juices, and other processed foods. Traditionally cranberry sauce is served as part of Thanksgiving dinner, automatically giving these tart little berries the seasonal stamp of approval.
Harvests begin in September, making these an excellent substitute for pumpkin spice this fall. If you can't imagine cranberries as anything other than a block of jelly in the shape of a tin can you'll want to find some recipes online or check out the juice aisle to see what catches your fancy.
Another fruit whose harvest begins in the fall, pears are a delicious alternative to traditional pumpkin spice. Especially good for baking, pears make excellent tarts and pies. For dessert pears are often served poached or caramelized.
Pears may be relatively common throughout the year but they are especially delicious as the weather begins to turn cold. Their natural sweetness makes them a primary ingredient in many juices and jams. Combining tart fruits like cranberries or raspberries with pears is an excellent way to balance out their flavors.
If you are staring down the gauntlet of pumpkin-flavored scones, muffins, and pasties see if you have the option of a pear tart instead. You'll be happy you did!
When the scent of pumpkin spice begins wafting out of every coffee house and bakery you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you have some really delicious alternatives this year. Whether you choose a more traditional apple cider donut or one of the delicious flavors listed here you can enjoy having a few new flavors to escape into as the weather starts to cool.
What are your favorite fall flavors?