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Originally published Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 5:00 AM

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Pumpkin inspires an orange tide of food products

Pumpkin-flavored food products are everywhere. Here are some worth tasting, and a few that should probably have been left in the pumpkin patch.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Is it just me, or is pumpkin taking over?

These days, the distinctive autumnal flavor appears in just about everything, from drinks and granola bars to pasta and ice cream, and the orange tide keeps rising. Even Pringles has joined in the Great American Pumpkin Party, including a Pumpkin Pie Spice chip in its new lineup of limited-edition holiday season flavors.

Some of these pumpkin-powered supermarket foods and menu items make perfect sense, such as the seasonal pumpkin brews being poured through about Thanksgiving. I'm developing a taste for the pumpkin-spiced coffees being brewed, also for a limited time, at chains such as Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, especially when paired with a decadent pumpkin loaf.

But is Pumpkin Cream Cheese atop a Pumpkin Walnut Crunch Bagel too much of a good thing? Do we really need pumpkin-flavored dog treats or nonfat Greek pumpkin yogurt, just two of the 20-plus "Pumpkin Season specialties" advertised in Trader Joe's October Fearless Flying brochure?

Below, we offer a few more of the season's best pumpkin-flavored offerings worth the calories, along with a couple that might have been better left in the pumpkin patch.

Wake up to a bagel — Einstein Bros, Noah's and Panera Bread feature pumpkin varieties this time of year. So does muffin-maker Thomas, though its pumpkin spice bagels and bagel thins are a far cry from the chewy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside taste you love in a fresh bagel hot out of the oven. Thomas also makes a pumpkin spice English muffin. Pepperidge Farms, meanwhile, celebrates fall with its seasonal pumpkin spice swirl bread. The "swirl" being pumpkin purée, this bread is best toasted, with plenty of butter. It would make a great base for French toast.

Not to be outdone at the breakfast table is Kellogg's, whose Frosted Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts are sure to be a hit with kids and adults whose taste buds never grew up. A better option is Pumpkin Spice Eggo waffles, part of its "Seasons" line of specialty waffles. A little butter and a drizzle of syrup, and you're ready to go.

For those who like to make and (artificially) flavor coffee at home, there's Coffee-mate Pumpkin nondairy creamer and International Delight's Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer.

Courting tea lovers is Bigelow Tea, whose collection of seasonal holiday tea bags includes Pumpkin Spice Tea. It's blended using black tea and natural pumpkin flavors with cinnamon, licorice root, cloves and ginger. Slightly spicy and wonderfully aromatic, it's perfect for sipping before bed.

Pumpkin also is making its way into staples such as salsa, pasta, snacks and spreads. My oldest son is a huge fan of Trader Joe's pumpkin butter, which you can slather on cake or toast, stir into yogurt or oatmeal or spoon with peanut butter into a sandwich.

For sweeter tastes, Kraft devised Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows, perfect for an autumnal Rice Krispie Treat. Hershey's wraps the flavor in chocolate, in a Pumpkin Spice Kiss.

As for Pringles' Pumpkin Pie Spice potato chips, the limited-edition flavor makes its debut at Wal-Mart. It's not as weird as the White Chocolate Peppermint chip that's arriving with it.

If you haven't satisfied your yen for pumpkins, Glade has come out with a new air freshener for fall. With the Maple Pumpkin scent, your house can smell like "maple syrup and newly harvested pumpkins." If that's your sort of thing.

Contact Gretchen McKay at gmckay@post-gazette.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com

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