Most families have visited one of the Treasure Valley’s many pumpkin patches and are carving pumpkins in the next few days in preparation for Halloween. It’s a tradition in the Boise Healthy Living Examiner’s house, that’s for sure. Once you scoop out those pumpkin innards, don’t throw them out. Save the seeds for a healthy, tasty treat. Believe it or not, those seeds we usually get rid of contain several antioxidants, and are a healthy addition to your diet.
Loaded with zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, protein, copper, phosphorous, vitamin E, and tryptophan, pumpkin seeds also make a great snack between meals. In fact, they’re an excellent alternative to chips, pretzels, and sunflower seeds. You may have seen them labeled as pepitas, the flat green seeds in your grocer’s bulk bins or packaged in the nut aisle. You may find them raw, shelled, unshelled, or roasted. Or, you may find packaged pumpkin seeds in the sunflower seed aisle. These are generally roasted and salted. As with sunflower seeds, these can be high in sodium, so read the package carefully.
To best way to control the amount of salt in pumpkin seeds is to roast your own. It takes a little while, but the end result is well worth the time and effort. First, you’ll want to wipe them off with a paper towel to remove all those pumpkin guts. Some people prefer to rinse them. Use your judgment, depending on how much pumpkin goop you’ve got to remove. Then lay them out on a paper bag or more paper towels and let them dry overnight. Now they’re ready for roasting.
Preheat your oven to a very low temperature, about 160 to 170 degrees. Some ovens will only go down to 200, so if this is the case, set it to the lowest setting. You’ll want to spread the seeds on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and roast them for between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on the oven temperature.
That’s the basic recipe, but you can add a variety of seasonings to give this healthy snack any number of flavors. As a general rule of thumb, for a cup of pumpkin seeds, you’ll want to use about 1 3/4 to 2 teaspoons of seasoning. You may also want to use up to a tablespoon of oil or melted butter to help coat the seeds.
Cajun For a spicy Cajun treat, try Cajun seasoning, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce.
Cinnamon Toast For a sweet treat, mix a little cinnamon with a little sugar.
Pumpkin Pie For a real pumpkin pie flavor, use a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, with a pinch of cardamom, and a little sugar.
Savory For a savory flavor, try a little garlic powder, low sodium soy sauce, and chili powder.
Italian How about a nice Italian twist with garlic powder, basil, and oregano?
Mexican Blend chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and garlic powder for a south of the border taste.
Maple Another sweet treat is a little nutmeg and cinnamon, mixed with maple syrup instead of oil or butter.
It should be noted that if you’re using a spice blend with sugar, be sure to check the seeds every so often and give them a little stir so they don’t stick.
A quarter cup of roasted, unseasoned pumpkin seeds has about 70 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fat. Obviously, whatever you add to it is going to increase those numbers, and add other things as well. But keep in mind that you’re only using a teaspoon or two of seasoning, and about a tablespoon of fat for a cup of seeds, so you’ll still be in good shape.
Talk it up:
What’s your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin seeds?
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