READ IT: Reporter Samples All Pumpkin Flavored Items At Trader Joe’s

Oh. My. Gourd.

Trader Joe’s has finally gone out of its pumpkin-picking mind this year, offering roughly 60 products infused, flavored, scented or covered with the distinctive sweetness and the spicy musk of the squash everyone loves to hate: pumpkin.

Or loves to love. You can mock the autumnal Cucurbita all you want, but food processors are grinding them into powders and purees and Americans are eating them up. The latest data isn’t immediately available, but in 2014, Forbes reported that sales of pumpkin spice-flavored products rose 14%. Overall use of pumpkin as an ingredient in beverages alone grew 130% since 2006, and pumpkin foods in restaurants grew 10 times over roughly the same period.

But no single store rules the pumpkin patch like Trader Joe’s, which stocks dozens of items.

Saucony runs with pumpkin spice sneakers, because fall

No journalist has dared to try them all — until now. Yes, over the weekend, I bought every pumpkin-flavored item that was available at the Trader Joe’s on Court St. in Brooklyn, 41 in all, and consumed them (excluding pie, bread and pancake mixes).

It was a disturbing weekend.

Some of the items were horrific (looking at you, pumpkin mochi ice cream), many were good and some, like the pumpkin salsa or the pumpkin pasta sauce, were outstanding.

Here is the full report, courtesy of my friends at Alka-Seltzer (items are rated 0 to 5 pumpkins):

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Pumpkin ravioli ($3.49)

If you’re looking for a dessert ravioli, this is your pasta! The center is very sweet and one-dimensional, mostly tasting of cinnamon and sugar. This product reveals the main problem with pumpkin. To make it edible, most people mix in CNG (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) in varying amounts. That's OK in a granola, but not in ravioli and the other poor items below.

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce ($3.49)

Oh my gourd — McDonald’s Japan makes pumpkin spice French fries

Despite the name, this is basically a tomato cream pasta sauce flecked with chunks of something (pumpkin, I’m assuming!). But it’s balanced with a nice mix of savory herbs to keep it from becoming too sweet.

Rating: 3 pumpkins

Mini Ginger Ice Cream Mouthfuls ($3.99)

Here I am overwhelmed by only a few of Trader Joe’s many many pumpkin items.

Here I am overwhelmed by only a few of Trader Joe’s many many pumpkin items.

(Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

If there is a better use for pumpkin, I haven’t found it: Take Trader Joe’s sweet pumpkin ice cream and sandwich it between two genuinely excellent, spicy ginger snap cookies. It’s easily the best product on the Trader Joe’s gourd menu. Taste one and you’ll eat six.

Rating: 5 pumpkins

Pumpkin Pie mochi ice cream ($3.49)

This product is the worst of both worlds. Trader Joe's calls these powdery balls a “Western twist on a traditional Japanese dessert,” but the inedible ice cream and the rubbery rice dough casing combine into the worst cross-cultural melange since that time the Russians and the French created borscht Champagne.

Rating: 0 pumpkins

Pumpkin toaster pastry ($2.49)

Trader Joe’s take on a Pop Tart, this wan substitute is bad when eaten both cold or hot. Untoasted, it’s decent, with a flavorless crust and a paltry quantity of pumpkin-pie-like filling. Toasted, the crust turns into cardboard for some reason. And the filling gets stringy and has even less taste.

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Country pumpkin spice granola cereal ($2.49)

This one is crunchy and habit forming, but it has that slimy pumpkin quality that blueberries or strawberries don't have.

Rating: 3 pumpkins

Pumpkin cream cheese spread ($2.99)

This overly sweet spread may be the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth for nutritional purposes. It tastes like pumpkin-spiced melted rubber.

Rating: 0 pumpkins

One of Trader Joe’s best products is the pumpkin flavored salsa.

One of Trader Joe’s best products is the pumpkin flavored salsa.

(Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

Pumpkin bread pudding ($3.99)

  Finally, a pumpkin offering that’s not overly sweet. But for some reason, this mushy mound of pumpkin bread and cinnamon never fully crisps up in the oven. Only the faintest outer edges get delightfully crunchy.

 

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin bagels ($2.49)

First of all, no one should ever eat a fake bagel. Get it from a bagel store, or don’t bother. And if you want pumpkin bread, buy pumpkin bread. Don’t twist the overly sweet, cinnamony dough into a circle and call it a bagel. Just don’t.

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Pumpkin cream cheese muffins ($3.99)

Oddly, the item that I thought would be the sweetest and most annoying was actually relatively benign. The muffin itself is not overly sweet and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch. And there’s only a small dollop of sweet icing.

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Fall harvest salsa ($2.99)

Believe it or not, this product is everything you want in salsa: it’s spicy, tomatoey, a bit sweet and full of big chunks. The dominant flavor is fire-roasted tomatillos, jalapeños and lime, which keep the pumpkin in check.

Rating: 5 Pumpkins

Pumpkin spice rooibos ($3.99)

Trader Joe's says this herbal tea "evokes the nostalgic memories of autumn." The only memories it evokes for me is when I tried to make tea out of cinnamon and hot water when I was 6. It did not work then and it does not work now. There's no taste to this watery brew.

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Pumpkin panettone ($4.99)

Pumpkin O’s are crispy and delicious.

Pumpkin O’s are crispy and delicious.

(Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

The candied pumpkins are a relief from the sickeningly sweet and rubbery fruit in most of these Italian Christmas breads. But Trader Joe’s version has so much pumpkin cream inside that it's more bundt cake than panettone.

Rating: 2 pumpkins

Pumpkin O's ($2.49)

This Honey Nut Cheerios knockoff is a tiny bit better than the General Mills version.

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin seed bread ($3.49)

This is a bit of a ringer: It’s not really pumpkin spiced or flavored at all, but simply a great basic rustic loaf with some pumpkin seeds mixed in for texture.

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin waffles ($1.99)

These won’t have you yelling, “Leggo my Trader Joe’s very slightly pumpkiny waffle!” but you’ll enjoy the crispy texture and mild taste.

Rating: 3 pumpkins

Pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds ($2.99)

If you’re looking for salty pumpkin seeds, keep walking. These are covered in sugar and pumpkin spice, so they’re more like a spiced nut rather than a savory seed.

Rating: 3 pumpkins

Pumpkin Spice Rooibos is not good at all.

Pumpkin Spice Rooibos is not good at all.

(Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

Pumpkin butter ($2.29)

Sweeter than apple butter and a bit grainy, the only use for this cloying spread is to mix it with bourbon, one part butter to three parts bourbon, and add in some fresh lime juice. Repeat as directed.

Rating: 2 pumpkins

Pumpkin soup ($1.79)

Believe it or not, this soup is too flat and flavorless — a thin gruel instead of a bisque or a consomme instead of a meal. In other words: Pumpkin water.

Rating: 2 pumpkins

Pumpkin soup cracker ($1.99)

I had never heard of a soup cracker before, let alone one made with pumpkins. In reality, this Frankenfood is a cross between a Dorito and a Wheat Thin, which is basically the perfect cracker. Trader Joe’s was smart to limit the pumpkin influence to a hint of scent.

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin cranberry crisps ($3.99)

The perfect accompaniment to a funky cheese, thanks to some sweetness and a melba toast-like texture.

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin macarons ($4.99)

Excessively sweet like all macarons. Now, if Trader Joe’s wants to do some good in the world, it should make pumpkin macaroons for Passover.

Trader Joe’s pumpkin muffins are excellent.

Trader Joe’s pumpkin muffins are excellent.

(Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)

Rating: 2 pumpkins

Petit pumpkin spice cookies ($2.99)

Again employing the ginger snap to sublime use, this time Trader Joe’s pairs it with a sweet yogurt icing. These are excellent.

Rating: 5 pumpkins

“This pumpkin walks into a bar” cereal bar ($1.99)

Think of these like you would a Fig Newton (or even a Fig Newman), except twice the length. They really don’t taste like pumpkin, however, if that’s important to you. (Memo to you: It should not be.)

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin Joe Joe's ($2.99)

Think of the worst pumpkin-spice Oreo dipped into the worst Starbucks pumpkin-spice latte and then blended with pumpkin-spice soy milk. Yes, these are that bad.

Rating: 0 pumpkin

Pumpkin cheesecake ($6.99)

Not a bad value — if you don’t mind a dull pie that arrives frozen and tastes like it. It’s neither pumpkiny or cheesy. Instead, it’s just an orange blob (that, at least, isn’t trying to be president).

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Pumpkin spice cake ($4.99)

One of the best products was a mini-pumpkin pie.

One of the best products was a mini-pumpkin pie.

(Gersh Kuntzman)
And one of the worst is the Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream bombs.

And one of the worst is the Pumpkin Pie Mochi Ice Cream bombs.

(Gersh Kuntzman)

One of the best products was a mini-pumpkin pie. One of the worst is the mochi ice cream thing.

This misnamed product is really pumpkin bread shaped like a bundt cake. Regardless, it’s very good, with a low-key pumpkin flavor.

Rating: 5 pumpkins

Pumpkin ice cream ($3.99)

Trader Joe’s presents the best elements of pumpkin pie and ice cream — minus the crust. All this ice cream needs is crust and it would earn the top score.

Rating: 4 pumpkins

Pumpkin rolls ($3.99)

Inspired by the Pillsbury Dough Boy biscuits in their pop-to-open canister, the Trader Joe’s version are light and brioche-like, flaky and not too sweet (except for the icing, which you should skip).

Rating: 5 pumpkins

Pumpkin spice chai latte ($3.99)

If you want chai or tea, keep walking. But if you want pumpkin spiced warm milk, this is your product. But who are you?

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Organic canned pumpkin ($1.99)

It’s mushy pumpkin in a can. Nothing else. Sublime.

Rating: 5 pumpkins

Gersh Kuntzman holds pumpkin flavored cereal during a break from his eating marathon.

Gersh Kuntzman holds pumpkin flavored cereal during a break from his eating marathon.

(Andrew Schwartz/For New York Daily News)
Who's a good boy? I am for giving my dog a pumpkin-flavored treat from Trader Joe's.

Who's a good boy? I am for giving my dog a pumpkin-flavored treat from Trader Joe's.

(Jane Kuntzman)

Who's a good boy? Me for giving my dog a pumpkin-flavored treat.

Mini pumpkin pies ($3.99)

These could have been the greatest thing on the menu, thanks to a perfect crust-to-filling ratio. But for some reason, the two-bite pies get mushy instead of crispy in the oven.

Rating: 5 pumpkins

Pecan pumpkin instant oatmeal ($2.99)

This sweet and gruel-like breakfast cereal is a disaster. It’s what must have been served in a debtor's prison in Falmouth, Mass. in 1820 after the locals had eaten all the good pumpkins and left the remainder for the criminals.

Rating: 1 pumpkin

Pumpkin biscotti ($3.99)

Dense and crumbly, these are biscotti only if you live in a town where the lone Italian-American was a guy named Ettore Boiardi, who betrayed his people and his name by selling out to Big Pasta and living forever in infamy as Chef Boyardee.

Rating: 0 pumpkins

Pumpkin spice cookie butter ($3.69)

If you want butter, we have butter. If you want cookies, we have those, too. If you want something with a hint of pumpkin flavor, I’m sure you can find something. But all three? No. This version of Trader Joe’s trademark “cookie butter” is like eating a bar of butter standing in a pumpkin patch while someone reads off your rapidly increasing weight with a megaphone.

Rating: 0 pumpkins

Pumpkin chai spice loaf ($4.99)

A winner: Trader Joe’s took its otherwise excellent pumpkin bread and covered it with a delicious cream cheese frosting. The whole thing gets a nice little kick from cloves and black pepper.

Rating: 5 pumpkins

Pumpkin dog biscuits ($3.49)

Pumpkin completists will definitely want to buy some of these, though I have no idea how they taste. My dog devoured them (but then again, he’s a DOG!).

Rating: N/A

Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/eat-pumpkin-food-trader-joe-article-1.2833705

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