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The Great Pumpkin Seed: How to Roast and Why!

The Great Pumpkin Seed: How to Roast and Why!
Do you carve pumpkins each year? If you do, but don’t normally save the seeds for roasting, find out why you should.

The Great Pumpkin

The Great Pumpkin

This brightly-colored fruit from the squash family is native to North America and dates back 7,500 to 9,000 years. Pumpkin has been used as a food source for thousands of years, both for the fleshy fruit, seeds and edible flowers. Today in Mexico, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are still used as a popular ingredient in traditional dishes, like mole. You may see pepitas at the grocery store that look a bit different from the pumpkin seeds you know—these flat, light green seeds are actually the soft seed found inside the edible shell (hull) of a pumpkin seed.

Nutritional Value

A superfood, pumpkin seeds pack a ton of nutrients. The top benefit is the seed’s high levels of heart-healthy magnesium—a half cup almost completes your recommended daily value. Pumpkin seeds are also full of zinc, which boosts your immune system and cell growth, and is important for prostate health. (Both the zinc and magnesium make them a particularly great food for men!) Full of protein and fiber, these seeds are a great snack that can also reduce your bad cholesterol. And you know tryptophan, the mood-boosting amino acid that makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner? Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of this; a handful a few hours before bed may help you get a better night’s sleep.

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

  1. When you’re carving your pumpkin, have a bowl handy to toss seeds into. (Don’t worry about getting all the pumpkin flesh off them right now, just pull off the big chunks and place the seeds into the bowl.)
  2. Place your seeds in a colander and run cold water over them to help pull off a bit more of the pumpkin pieces. If you have the time, soak your seeds by placing them in a covered bowl of warm water for 24 hours. Soaking nuts and seeds mimics the germination process and makes nutrients more readily available to you (and also makes for a crunchier snack)! Bonus: the extra bits of pumpkin pulp will sink to the bottom.
  3. Rinse the seeds one last time and spread them out onto a baking sheet to dry, approximately 8 hours.
  4. Here’s where you can get creative! Select organic extra-virgin olive oil, using only enough to lightly coat the seeds, and then add Himalayan sea salt or any other spices you’d like to try. (You can go spicy with some cayenne, sweet with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves or savory with garlic and rosemary.)
  5. To retain the best nutritional value of the seed, dehydrate the seeds at 150° F for 12 – 24 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator or the time, don’t worry! Roast your seeds in the oven for around an hour at 300° F. Since ovens vary, keep an eye on your seeds, stir them often and take them out when they brown ever-so-slightly around the edges.

This recipe retains the optimal level of nutrients. If you don’t have the time to soak and dry out your seeds, it’s OK! Search for a fast and easy pumpkin seed recipe.

Have fun and be safe carving your pumpkins! And if you’re curious about the story behind carving pumpkins, read the Irish folklore about “Stingy Jack.”