BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS – Pumpkin spice does not actually contain pumpkin.
The blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice got its name because it is traditionally used to flavor pumpkin recipes. (Cloves and mace are sometimes included too.)
All these different spices—sometimes hailing from completely different parts of the world—remarkably came together to create the blend we love.
So where does pumpkin spice come from?
Bear with us, its history is fascinating. The origin of pumpkin spice dates back to the and the Dutch East India Company. Most spices in today’s blend—cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cloves—are native to Southeast Asian islands.
Some could be found exclusively on a few island groups that are now part of Indonesia. Known as the Spice Islands, their location was a closely guarded secret. The Dutch took control of the Spice Islands in the early-17th century.
Those islands became integral to the success of the Dutch East India Company and the spread of those spices. Access to the spices inspired the Dutch to create blends such as speculaaskruiden, which is similar to pumpkin spice but also has cardamom and sometimes white pepper. The popularity of speculaaskruiden in Netherland desserts lead to the spices moving across borders.
By 1791, a similar blend called “mixed spices” showed up in The Practice of Cookery, written by a Scottish author only known as “Mrs. Frazer.” Mrs. Frazer’s blend was called “mixed spices,” and included nutmeg, clove, and “Jamaica pepper,” which is likely allspice—native to the Caribbean, where the British had their own colonies. Mrs. Frazer recommended using her “mixed spices” on fried flounder and mutton chops.
By 1796, the spice blend had made its way to the New World, as evidenced by the first known cookbook to be written by an American, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. It includes a pumpkin pie recipe. (She spells it pompkin.) Her spice blend contains mace, nutmeg, and ginger.
What about the pumpkin?
Pumpkin is one of the earliest domesticated crops on Earth …