Fall’s Health-Filled Snack

Want more energy? Eat pumpkin seeds.

Wantpepitos to lower your bad cholesterol? Eat pumpkin seeds.

Want to increase the good cholesterol levels? Eat pumpkin seeds.

Want to reduce nervous irritability or anxiety? Eat pumpkin seeds.

Do you want to increase your metabolism? Eat pumpkin seeds.

1 oz. hulled – (142 seeds) = 28 grams = 153 calories (Calories from fat – 117)

Pumpkin seeds are fall’s health-filled snack, easily available from your garden or the local farmer’s market. You can prepare them yourself and control the amount of oils, sugar or salt content for your own health benefits. Pumpkin seeds have no cholesterol, very low sodium and very low sugar, but are high in iron. The B-complex group of vitamins aid in boosting metabolism. The proteins and amino acids aid in reducing anxiety and nervous irritability. Recent studies show the seeds may even help in preventing prostate and ovarian cancers and may play a role in the prevention of kidney disease.

Prepare the Seeds
After carving your pumpkin, scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds. Carefully wash pumpkin seeds to remove the clinging fibrous pumpkin tissue. Leaving a little of the flesh on the seeds won’t hurt – it may actually improve the pumpkin flavor. At this point, the seeds can either be dried, baked, toasted or roasted. For a sweeter taste, use seeds from sugar pumpkins, the somewhat smaller variety of pumpkin, rather than the huge jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Then the shell can be eaten as well as the kernel.

Flavor the Seeds
For more flavor, allow the seeds to soak in salted water overnight to let the salt infuse the entire seed. For each cup of seeds, add two cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt plus a couple drops of olive oil. The next day, bring the water to a boil and simmer for ten minutes. Drain and toss with another tablespoon of olive oil. Add more spices, if desired (see various recipe links below). Flavoring seeds is a fun and easy way to get creative with your spice rack. If you prefer to have a sweet seed, substitute sugar or sweetener for the salt. Like spicy instead? Add one teaspoon of Indian Marsala spice (per cup of seeds) or garlic salt, Worcestershire, and chili powder for a Mexican flare. Three great recipes can be found at 101cookbooks for curried pumpkin seeds, sweet and spicy seeds or black tea and butter seeds.

The seeds must now be baked, toasted or roasted. There is a difference.

Dry the Seeds
Toss the dried pumpkin seeds with oil and/or salt and spread in a single layer on a baking pan. Put in a warm oven (150-200°F) for 3-4 hours. Stir them frequently to avoid scorching. They can also be dried in the sun, or in a dehydrator 115-120°F for 1 to 2 hours.

Toast the Seeds
Mike Foreman, a certified chef in Camas, WA likes to toast the seeds first after soaking in salt, and then roast them. He recommends sauteing the pumpkin seeds in canola oil because it doesn’t hide the flavor of the seeds like vegetable oil. If you want more of a pumpkin flavor, use olive oil. Using the highest heat, allow the seeds to saute in the skillet only a few minutes. Watch carefully, but do not stir. They will scorch if left on the heat too long. The seeds should give off a nutty aroma and begin to almost pop (like popcorn) when ready.

Roast the Seeds

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. To control the amount of grease used, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Roast the seeds for 10-15 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching.

Seeds can be kept up to one year in the freezer, or several months in air-tight containers. One medium to large pumpkin will yield about 1 cup of seeds, and 1 smaller pie pumpkin will yield about the same amount. A serving of pumpkin seeds is 1/4 cup (about 142 hulled seeds) is 153 calories. Calories from fat = 117. This is the ‘good’ fat found in nuts.

Whatever way you like them, you can make them – and what is better for a health-filled fall snack?