I’ve been doing Halloween for the past couple of days. Both our boys are down with chickenpox, but luckily they haven’t had any fever, at least not yet. So we’ve had a lot of time to make cardboard bats and ghosts. We even carved a pumpkin, which we’d never done before. Halloween’s not such a big thing in Finland yet.
I do my best not to waste food, so I saved the flesh and the seeds. I roasted the seeds and was surprised when I read about their excellent nutritional content.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are an excellent source of at least the following:
- Zinc. The World Health Organization recommends pumpkin seeds as a source of zinc, particularly in unshelled form. Currently 2 billion people in the world are not consuming enough zinc. The risk exists particularly if you don’t eat red meat.
- Good fats: these seeds are very rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids that help lower the bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol
- Vitamin E, which is a very important vitamin for its anti-oxidative qualities
- Anti-oxidant qualities overall. There are many anti-oxidant rich foods out there, but pumpkin seeds have a particularly diverse anti-oxidant content
- Several minerals, such as copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron
- A fairly good amount of protein: particularly important for vegetarians
- Fiber. Particularly if you don’t eat gluten, like I don’t, it’s always nice to have extra sources of fiber.
There’s even some preliminary animal evidence about pumpkin seeds having a role in the prevention of diabetes and cancer. How great is that?
So, how to roast them?
- Take out the seeds, rinse them and try to get rid of the strips of flesh stuck on them. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get them completely clean, do the best you can.
- Dry them. I left them first on a kitchen towel for an hour or two, and then patted them dry using a paper towel. They can be quite slimy after they’ve been washed, so I assume it’s good to do this properly to achieve optimal crunchiness. If you’ve got the time, you can leave them to dry overnight.
- Heat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Once the seeds are dry, roll them in some oil and the spices of your choice. I wanted them a little sweet so I put in some honey and the same spices I’d use for the ginger biscuits we make in Finland for Christmas, which is to say a mix of cinnamon, clove, and ginger. Don’t forget salt.
- Roast them for about 15 minutes. Don’t let them roast for over twenty minutes or the fats might start to change to unhealthy forms. They’re ready when they’re crunchy.
You can add more spices once you’ve roasted them if they need it. I added just a touch of sugar and some more salt.
I think they’re best when they’re still warm. Don’t keep them for too long, or the fats might start to go rancid. That shouldn’t be a problem, though, just leave them out for a day or two and they’ll be bound to disappear mysteriously.