Baking Pumpkin Seeds
Guidelines for Baking Pumpkin Seeds
The arrival of autumn may be most famous for the crispness in the air and the lovely, colorful foliage, but it is also the time for baking pumpkin seeds. A delicious and nutritious snack, the seeds from this orange orb pack a healthy punch to any fall.
It may surprise some to learn that one of the more popular members of the squash family didn’t achieve its fame strictly for its edible nature. The pumpkin may very well be the most used of the winter squash family. Some of its uses include:
- Carving. The fun of carving a pumpkin for display at Halloween is one of the pleasures of the season for which people young and old look forward.
- Pie making. A standard delight after enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners is biting into a creamy slice of spicy pumpkin pie.
- Stew. Baking a meat stew within the shell of a cleaned pumpkin is an attractive and delicious way to serve an autumn meal.
- Desserts. The pureed flesh of the pumpkin can be used to make tasty and moist quick breads, muffins, cakes, pancakes and more.
- Decoration. The simple act of displaying various shaped pumpkins along with scarecrows, hay bales and colorful fall leaves is a popular decoration for homes in the autumn.
- Baking pumpkin seeds. Once the interior shell of the pumpkin is cleaned, the seeds are separated from the “gook” and toasted to a delicious crunchiness.
The pumpkin is classified as both a vegetable and a fruit, as it possesses properties for each classification. Most people associate it along with other squash as a winter vegetable; however, due to its content of seeds, it is eligible to be considered a fruit. These same seeds are one of the healthiest features of the pumpkin.
Some of the health benefits garnered from regular snacking on the seeds of pumpkins are in preventing mild depression, improved bladder function, preventing hardening of the arteries, balancing cholesterol levels, improved prostate health and more.
The oval shaped seeds called pepitas contain a number of nutritional benefits. Their nutty flavor and crunchy texture have gained a huge following of enthusiasts, eating them as a healthy snack. Highest benefits are obtained from the seeds when they are eaten raw due to the natural fatty acids they possess; however, the oils can turn rancid making the seeds inedible. Roasting them not only enhances the crispiness and nutty flavor, but also can allow the seeds to be stored for longer periods of time.
Any type of pumpkin can be used; utensils can be as simple as a large sharp knife from the kitchen or the tools sold for carving. Simply slice off the top stem end of the pumpkin; if the shell will be used as a Jack O’Lantern, you may wish to add a decorative zig-zag touch to the cutting. Using a large metal spoon, scrape along the interior of the pumpkin to loosen the pulpy matter within. Remove the contents, seeds and all, and place on newspaper. Separate the seeds from the strings of pumpkin; discard the pulp and place seeds in a colander to rinse clean. Allow them to drain until dry, approximately 30-45 minutes.
Preheat a conventional oven to 275º. Place seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet; coat lightly with an olive oil or butter spray. While the seeds will be tasty in their natural state, there are countless flavorings that can be added at this point, if desired. Garlic powder, salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, cinnamon and any other spice combination that suits the taste buds can be sprinkled on the seeds before roasting to give them even greater flavor.
Place the prepared seeds in the preheated oven and allow them to roast for between 10 and 20 minutes, watching them carefully to prevent burning. Once golden brown, remove from the oven and prepare to enjoy!
Baking pumpkin seeds is an easy and delicious treat that families can do together after carving their decorative pumpkins; building a tradition that will make everyone look forward to the crispness of the autumn air for another opportunity to enjoy this nutritious and delicious snack.