When my 4 kids were little, each Halloween we would carve 1 pumpkin per child. Being that waste of any type does not sit well with me, & realizing that I was literally tossing good nutrition down the drain, the thrifty dietitian in me emerged & I decided to collect the seeds & roast the pumpkin to use the delicious pulp for pies & breads (the pulp freezes well:). As for the seeds, also known by their Spanish name pepitas, I rinse them in a colander, pat them dry with a cloth towel, place them on a jelly roll pan lined with wax paper overnight, (avoid using paper towels as the seeds will stick as they dry), then roast with a bit of salt & herbs. These powerful little seeds are packed with nutrition! Not only are they very good sources of phosphorus, magnesium and manganese, minerals helpful in building strong bones, but they also contain decent amounts of copper, zinc and iron
Pumpkin seeds provide a variety of antioxidants, including vitamin E. Antioxidants are molecules which help repair cell damage that occurs daily in our bodies, and help ward off infections and disease. These green seeds are a good vegetarian protein source with 9 grams per ¼ cup! Pumpkin seeds are becoming popular as snacks, much like the sunflower seeds I’ve always enjoyed. Both seeds, shelled, have 187 calories and 16 grams of fat per ¼ cup. While the fat content is high, three-fourths of it comes from the more healthful mono and polyunsaturated fats.
The white outer pumpkin seed shell is also edible. Eating the entire seed can help reduce calories as ¼ cup has only 71 calories. Whole seeds also have triple the fiber at 3 grams per ¼ cup compared to only 1 gram for the same amount of kernels alone.
Have you noticed how popular pumpkin has become? There is the ever popular PSL, (pumpkin spice latte:), pumpkin hummus, ice cream, bars, cake & on & on. Get in on the craze by roasting your own pumpkin seeds, using a recipe from your favorite cooking site or visit http://www.eatingwell.com or http://www.prevention.com (my go-to sites for healthy recipes). It doesn’t take much to incorporate savory flavors into your roasted seeds….a bit of cumin, salt, onion & chili powder will give them a little ‘kick’.
Pumpkin seeds can also be used in recipes as you would other nuts and seeds. Use as a topping on salads and cooked vegetables. Add to your favorite hot and cold cereals, granola or trail mix, or for added protein, crush or grind the seeds and add to your meat or veggie burgers. Substitute them for nuts in cookies and muffins and in banana, zucchini or other quick breads.
At this time of year, pumpkin seeds are available fresh straight from the pumpkin. You can find them at many area grocers year-round: shelled, unshelled, raw, roasted and prepackaged or in bulk.
Hands down, the best salsa I have ever eaten is Pumpkin Seed Salsa. Last February, very dear friends who also happen to be very experienced vegetarian cooks, gifted me an 8 oz jar of this delectable ‘gold’ . Once I tasted it, I knew it was going to be a year-round addition to my fridge. Needless to say, they shared the recipe & I have made it multiple times, tripling it each time:) I use it as salad dressing, a condiment to my entrée, or as a dip. I have included the recipe below.
PUMPKIN SEED SALSA
The following is the recipe I’ve used- I adapted it from some other recipes I’ve found, so it is certainly tweak able to make it however you like. Enjoy!!
- Slice 5 to 6 roma tomatoes and 1 red bell pepper. Lightly oil and salt and place on cookie sheet. Broil until slightly charred.
- Place charred tomatoes, bell pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1.5 cups H2O in pot on high heat. Add sliced spicy peppers to taste (pasilla, chiles de arbol, or jalapenos are all good options).
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to low simmer. Add 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 tablespoon smoked paprika. Let simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Separately, toast 4 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in a small saucepan until just browned.
- Add 3 tablespoons white vinegar to tomato mixture and simmer for 1 more minute.
- Place tomato mixture and toasted pepitas in blender and blend to desired texture.
- Optional to add finely chopped scallions and cilantro to salsa- I usually skip this step to keep it fresh longer, but its a tasty addition if being served immediately!