Mmm, gumdrops. Photo courtesy Farley’s &
It’s National Gumdrop Day.
Gumdrops are a chewy, brightly-colored, fruit-flavored confection, shaped like a truncated cone and coated in granulated sugar.
When they’re flavored with spices (allspice, cinnamon, clove, licorice, peppermint and wintergreen, for example) they’re called spice drops.
Outside the U.S., according to Wikipedia, the candy is known as American hard gums or hard gum candy.
Gumdrops are believed to be an American invention, but the date and the inventor are lost to history (along with the origin of the phrase, “goody goody gumdrops”*).
The earliest known printed reference is advertisement from The Illinois State Chronicle in 1859 from confectioner George Julier, offering “Fresh GumDrops, assorted flavor wholesale or retail.”
Invention can predate reference by decades (or much longer—the earlier in history and the less surviving the printed material, it can be hundreds of years earlier).
The Candy Land board game, invented in 1945, features both a Gumdrop Pass and a Gumdrop Mountain as enticing topography. In the U.K. the drops are called American hard gum candy.
Gumdrops are progenitors of the pectin- or gelatin-based group of candies that includes Dots, jelly beans, Jujubes and gummy candies. Although gumdrops and their siblings, spearmint leaves and orange slices, have fallen out of fashion in favor of of gummy candies, they are still popular with bakers (for garnishing cakes and cupcakes) and crafters. Where would gingerbread houses be without that gumdrop decor?
We think it’s time to get gummy with it, gumdrop-style. So track down some gumdrops and celebrate National Gumdrop Day. You may just find yourself asking, “Why don’t I enjoy these more often?”
If you’re ambitious, use them to make flower cupcakes.
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