It’s pumpkin time again! Although it is the eye catching, orange fruit of the pumpkin plant that receives the honor of being the hallowed symbol of season, the seeds deserve some glory too. Think twice before you toss those pumpkin guts this year. Pumpkin seeds are tasty little packages full of vitamins and minerals offering numerous health benefits.
Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are green in color often surrounded by an off white seed coat or shell (or hull or husk). Some varieties produce seeds without a shell. An energy dense food, they contain high levels of protein and fat along with important nutrients including Vitamin E, tryptophan, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. Full nutritional information is available from the USDA National Nutrient Database. Although the whole fruit is usually only available in the fall, the seeds and oil produced from the seeds can be purchased year round.
Native to North and Central America, the seeds of pumpkin plants were widely consumed and used medicinally by Native Americans for kidney, bladder and digestive ailments. Pumpkin seeds and their oil are currently being studied for health benefits like use as a treatment of tapeworms, lowering LDL cholesterol, positive impacts on mood disorders, prostate cancer, and many more.
Seeds can be eaten raw or roasted. They can be served on their own, sprinkled on salads, added to granola, or thrown into numerous recipes.
Ready to start snacking? Preparing pumpkin seeds can be as easy as tossing the seeds in butter or oil, spreading them on a pan and sprinkling with salt then roasting in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You can also find a variety of recipes online from sweet to spicy. After some family taste testing, this one is our favorite:
2 cups of pumpkin seeds (small pumpkin in top photo yielded 1 cup of seeds)
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons margarine, melted
1 ¼ teaspoons seasoned salt
Rinse and dry pumpkin seeds. Mix melted margarine, Worcestershire sauce, and seasoned salt in a bowl. Add seeds and stir until evenly coated. Spread out on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about an hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.