Earlier this month, Betsy Green came across an article in The Washington Post about a woman who ate and drank pumpkin spice products for an entire week.
“Now my armpits smell like nutmeg,” read part of the headline.
Since mid-September, the 42-year-old Moline woman has consumed something pumpkin-flavored — from pumpkin beer to pumpkin pancakes — “pretty much every day.” She plans to keep the routine going through Thanksgiving Day.
Green has made it her annual mission to sample — and review — every pumpkin item she can find at area restaurants and bars, grocery stores and online.
The list of seasonal products goes well beyond the standard pie or pastry. She has tried pumpkin ice cream bars, vinaigrette dressing, sparkling soda, Twinkies, salsa, yogurt and granola bars.
She compiles all of her findings on her blog, called “Pumpkin Obsessed,” complete with photos, short reviews and a ranking, ranging from zero to five pumpkins.
And, yes, she does it just for fun.
“I have fun trying new things and writing about it,” Green said. “It started as a silly joke with my friends. Now I’m sitting here with you.”
In her fourth season as a dedicated all-things pumpkin blogger, Green, who works as a project manager at Royal Neighbors of America, has found more items than ever in stock at Aldi, Target and Hy-Vee stores. Friends from across the country have sent her other finds from stores such as Trader Joe’s. She has also prepared more of her own recipes this year, such as pumpkin-flavored pastas, soups and sloppy joe sandwiches.
“I do get a couple of pumpkin care packages,” Green said. “Sometimes my friends leave a pumpkin beer on my back doorstep.”
As she says, an almost overwhelming amount of items come in a pumpkin flavor this time of year.
“Some things are just weird. Weird, but good,” Green said. “Like, I’m not sure anyone thought pumpkin spice cough drops would taste good.”
The array of options have grown plenty since Starbucks Coffee Company first offered the pumpkin spice latte in 2003.
“That’s how it started,” Green said. “Fall is now marked by the pumpkin spice latte being available at Starbucks.”
That’s the drink that launched her blog. At first, Green would post about the popular latte on Facebook, often saying she was counting down the days to its release “like it was Christmas morning."
“It’s a limited thing,” Green said. “That’s why it’s a little bit more special.”
Her blog covers much more than the signature coffee drink. And not every item gets a favorable review.
“Pumpkin latte is an absolute misnomer in describing this lollipop flavor,” Green writes in her recent review of a lollipop she bought at Walgreens. “It tastes like hot cinnamon. Like if you took a fire Jolly Rancher and crossed it with Hot Tamales. If you like that kind of thing, you will like this lollipop. I was done after about 30 seconds and tossed it in the trash.”
When she transferred her posts over to a Wordpress site two years ago, Green’s initial goal was to post three times per week from mid-September through Thanksgiving Day. Lately, with the end of her pumpkin season coming up, she has been blogging daily.
As a result, at least among her friend group, Green has become known as the "pumpkin girl."
“I tell my friends that if you don’t want to read about pumpkin stuff, just avoid my page for two months,” she said.
To prepare for her blog, Green maintains a Pinterest board dedicated to pumpkin items and recipes. When fall arrives, her list typically gets longer.
“I keep finding new things,” she said.
Last week, Green crossed another item off her pumpkin bucket list: A pumpkin mule at Me & Billy, the bar and restaurant in downtown Davenport.
“In the fall, it’s our staple cocktail,” Kaiann Distasio, a Me & Billy manager said of the drink made with vodka, pumpkin liqueur, ginger beer, fresh lime simple syrup, whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon.
The pumpkin mules will be available through Friday, though Distasio guesses some customers will request it beyond then.
“I have to tell people we don’t have it all the time,” she said. “Like when it’s July.”
Locally, Green has also tried the punk ‘n’ mator at Great River Brewery, a pumpkin coffee at Cool Beanz Coffee House in Rock Island and a pumpkin milkshake at Steel Plow Burger Company in Moline. While on a trip to Des Moines, she tried a pumpkin shake at Zombie Burger. One of her favorite fall-flavored beers is the pumpkin smasher at Big Muddy Brewing in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Later this week, Green will review her final pumpkin item of the year and move onto enjoying her other favorite flavors: chocolate, coffee and peppermint.
“I'm excited to eat things other than pumpkin," she said. "I try to find things I like about every season,” she said.
After all, she’s already started putting up Christmas decorations at home. As for her last review, she’d like to track down a Ben & Jerry’s pumpkin ice cream flavor.
One thing’s for sure: On Thanksgiving, she won’t opt for pumpkin pie.
“I’ll have pecan,” she said. “I just like it better.”