Cooler temps mean two things: it's finally time for those brisk runs you've been looking forward to, and
fall pumpkin spice season is officially here. But before you start acting on the foodie-fueled urge to start whipping up pumpkin everything, there's something you should know: Those cans of pumpkin might not actually be pumpkin.
According to a report by Epicurious, the majority of canned "pumpkin" on the market is actually an entirely different variety of fruit. Epicurious says that 85 percent of the canned pumpkin in the world is sold by the quintessential canned foods brand Libby's, and they grow their own tan-skinned pumpkin cousin, Dickinson squash, to help meet the demand. The kicker: This squash is more similar to a butternut squash than the bright orange pumpkins you'll be carving up this fall.
Apparently, this practice of blending fruit varietals is pretty common and totally legal. According to the official guidelines of the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), canned pumpkin can be packed with straight-up field pumpkin, "certain varieties of firm-shelled, golden-fleshed, sweet squash" or a mixture of the two, which explains why you might get a slightly different taste or texture when you buy different brands. Because pumpkins and "golden-fleshed sweet squash" are such close cousins, the FDA ruled back in 1938 that food companies could call the final mixture "pumpkin" regardless of how much of the actual fruit is in the blend. And since most people think the difference is NBD, the policy is still in effect.
While your taste buds may not be able to tell the difference, there is a difference in the nutritional value of the two fall fruits. Pumpkin is actually a little healthier than squash: A 3.5-ounce serving of squash has 45 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates, while pure pumpkin has only 26 calories and 6 grams of carbs. So if you're concerned about the calorie count, you may be better off carving up your own pumpkin and pureeing yourself. (Make sure you try these 10 recipes while you're at it.) Otherwise, consider this your official welcome to, err, squash spice season.