From the persistent popularity of Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes to the annual release of creative new pumpkin-related products, such as Hefty's already sold-out pumpkin-scented trash bags, the colorful plant has a special place in the hearts, minds, and wallets of Americans It seems that colorful plants have a special place in the hearts, minds, and wallets of Americans.

    According to Nielsen data, Americans spend about $500 million on pumpkin spice products each year.

    Coffee giant Starbucks (SBUX.O) says its Pumpkin Spice Latte, reintroduced on August 30, had its best sales week ever for the company.

    It's one of our traditions, and it's even in the movies," said sophomore Nick Cocotto, 20, a self-professed pumpkin lover." "Pumpkin" has also created a wonderful culture of pumpkin spice donuts and drinks. Soaps, bars, everything, thank you very much."

    But why is it that every fall we suddenly become obsessed with pumpkins?

    Pumpkin pickers visit the Great Pumpkin Patch in anticipation of Halloween.

    The pumpkin spice craze has become a $500 million industry in the United States.

    Pumpkins lie in a field at "The Great Pumpkin Patch" in Author, Illinois, U.S., October 23, 2021 (REUTERS/Cheney Orr/File Photo).

    Cindy Ott, historian, college professor, and author of "Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon," says, "There is no practical reason to put them in coffee, stick them on your front door, sweeten them, and put them in a pie.

    But these modern traditions actually go back much further, to an older tradition that links the pumpkin to the small family farm. The idyllic kind of small family farm in American life."

    Ott's love of the native American pumpkin can be traced back to the country's beginnings through centuries-old songs, paintings, cookbooks, and other sources.

    He details how pumpkins went from a bad reputation as unpalatable in colonial times to a pride of place as a vegetable in the 19th century.

    Says Ott, "Tinkering with the soil was a sign of moral virtue, the product of good citizens and old ideals." It is such ideals that the "pumpkin" can bear.

    While Cocotto admits that he knows little about the vegetable's long history, he seems to share Ott's sentiment of American pride." For me, pumpkins are part of fall."