Growing up, pumpkin seeds were a once-a-year treat. As a child there was the confusion of whether they were to be shelled like a sunflower seed or just chewed. Personally, the hulls were a bit too fibrous, but once you got inside, those seeds were very yummy. As an adult I noticed that there were all these green-coloured seeds without those hard-to-remove shells in trail mix and in the bulk food sections. These little green beauties are from a totally different species of pumpkin.
Pepitas, or hulless pumpkin seeds, come from the Cucurbita pepo. They are known as oilseed pumpkins and the common name for the more popular variety is Styrian pumpkin. They are a 90-day variety, which in Narcisse would mean starting them in the house and then planting them outside. This has been our experience with all pumpkins though, and we have found the performance of this species to be very much worth the effort.
Styrian pumpkins are also raised for the oil extracted from their seeds which has medicinal as well as culinary uses. The oilseed pumpkins grow their seeds without fibrous hulls, and their very delicate skin comes off easily. Unlike other pumpkins, at maturity they will be orange with some green striping.
Pepitas are loaded with nutrition. Just one-quarter cup (32.25 grams) provides significant amounts of manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, protein, zinc and iron. The seeds are also an excellent source of vitamins A and E, and omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. The World’s Healthiest Foods website cites studies that suggest pumpkin seeds may promote prostate health, protect your bones, act as an anti-inflammatory and lower cholesterol. Imagine! All this, and the hulls won’t get stuck in your teeth!
As the pumpkins we were gifted with have been ripening over the winter, we have been processing the seeds a few at a time for snacks.
To increase digestibility it is recommended to soak the pepitas.
- 4 c. raw hulless pumpkin seeds (from about two pumpkins)
- 2 tbsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- Filtered water
Dissolve salt in water, pour over seeds, using enough water to cover. Leave in a warm place for seven hours. Drain in a colander and pat dry.
At this point you may either roast at low heat (under 150 F to preserve maximum nutrient value, no warmer than 250 F) or dehydrate.
To roast pepitas
To oven roast, drizzle lightly with olive oil or sesame oil and toss with seasonings or additional salt, if desired. Toast until crispy, mixing every 15 minutes to half-hour. At 250 F it will take around 45 minutes to an hour to get them crispy, at 150 F it will take 8 to 12 hours. These should keep for a week or two in a tightly sealed container.
To dehydrate pepitas
To dehydrate, toss seeds with a bit more salt or seasoning if desired, and dry at less than 150 F until crispy, eight to 12 hours. Don’t add extra oil. Mix every hour or so. Once dry and crispy, store in a tightly sealed glass container.
When we were gifted these pumpkins we were told the flesh was not edible, just the seeds. This is not entirely a fact. The only downside with the oilseed pumpkins is that the flesh isn’t particularly tasty. It tends to be stringy and bland. For most pumpkin recipes, other winter squash would be a better substitute, as the flesh is denser, smoother and sweeter. If you want to use the flesh, using it similarly to large zucchini, as filler rather than a primary flavour would be a better idea. It also works well to put the cooked flesh through the food processor to chop up the stringy bits. On our farm it isn’t considered wasteful to share with the chickens, goats, sheep, and cows and they have adored a few of the underripe ones we’ve opened for a special winter treat!