Monday, October 26, 2009
Don't you just love walking around your neighborhood in these days before Halloween? In my neighborhood, lots of people go all out in the decorating. There are huge spider webs, lights, scary ghouls, and of course, pumpkins.
Not only is your Halloween pumpkin the perfect holiday decoration, but it is also a source of pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Pumpkin seeds, with or without hulls, are incredibly useful in Welcoming Kitchen cooking. For that matter, so are the seeds from any winter squash, like butternut squash or acorn squash.
Most of you are familiar with the roasted, salted, in-the-hull pumpkin seeds that moms around the country cook up for their kids after pumpkin carving. Following this same treatment for smaller butternut squash seeds can lead to a savory ingredient to toss into a sweet and salty trail mix.
Hulling pumpkin seeds results in a green, nutty-tasting pepita. These pepitas can then be ground with basil and garlic for a lovely pesto, or heated in a dry pan and added to soup or salad for some extra crunch. You can also make pumpkin seed butter by blending these hulled pepitas with a little canola oil and salt. There are literally hundreds of uses for these protein-packed seeds.
The question is: How do you get the pepita out of the hull? There are lots of suggestions on the Internet, and I have tried several of these. Almost all of the more creative ideas did not work out for me. I ended up with crushed seeds and lots of shell. Though time-consuming, I think the best option is to peel each seed with your clean fingernail or a sharp paring knife.
If you are looking for a nut alternative that's not prepared in a plant that processes nuts, harvesting your own pepitas is the way to go. You can get hundreds of seeds from even a smaller pumpkin, so once you get those shells off, you can freeze whatever extra seeds you're not going to use.
Once you discover the fantastic gems hidden within your jack o'lantern, you just might pick up an extra pumpkin or two in the future!
Kim & Megan