As you carve frightening or charming faces in your jack-o-lanterns this Halloween, be sure to keep the seeds for a nutritious snack. Jenna Smith, University of Illinois Extension registered dietitian and nutrition and wellness educator, believes that pumpkin seeds are truly one of the greatest rewards to this fall activity.
According to Smith, saving the seeds is easy. Once cutting out the stem of the pumpkin, the fun part begins. Reach inside the pumpkin to remove the “guts.”
Separate the pulp from the seeds, and put the seeds into a colander. This is a great activity for kids who love slime! Rinse the seeds, moving them around with your hands, to remove all the pulp. T
hen pat the seeds dry with a paper towel. Some recipes call for seeds to be boiled before roasted, which allows the seeds to cook more evenly.
Whichever way you do it, before roasting, toss the seeds with a bit of oil and have fun choosing your seasonings. Try cinnamon and sugar, pumpkin spice seasoning, chili powder, and garlic powder, or reduced sodium taco seasoning. After roasting, let the seeds cool and store in an airtight container.
Pumpkin seeds, depending on the cultivar, are high in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats. Enjoy them in a trail mix or granola, or as a crunch on top of soups, salads or desserts.
Grind them into a breading for fish or chicken, or use them to make pesto.
To learn more about pumpkins, including how to prepare and cook a fresh pumpkin, go to University of Illinois Extension’s Pumpkins and More website at urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/default.cfm.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 quart water
2 Tablespoons salt
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 Tablespoon olive or canola oil
Preheat oven to 250°F. Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible. Bring the water and salt to boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain; spread on a paper towel and pat dry. Place the seeds in a bowl with oil and toss. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet. Place in the oven and roast seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Turn oven temperature up to 325°F. Roast seeds for an additional 5 minutes. Let seeds cool and then store in an airtight container.
Yield: 2 cups, (8 servings, ¼ cup each)
Note: Boiling in a salt-water solution will roast the seeds more evenly. However, this step can be skipped. If not boiling and directly salting seeds, use ~1/2 teaspoon salt and/or additional spices.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 90 calories, 5 grams fat, 150 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams protein
— After you’ve carved the pumpkin, save those seeds —-