Pumpkins themselves are a very healthy food, full of antioxidant carotenoids like alpha and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. They offer a good range of vitamins, like vitamin A through converting beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and many of the B vitamins in significant quantities. They are also high in minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, copper and iron.
While buying pumpkin seeds is obviously easier, if you’re cooking with pumpkins anyway, please don’t throw away the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are extremely good for you straight out of the pumpkin. If they aren’t in season, butternut squash also makes a fine replacement with a similar nutritional profile.
How to Prepare Homemade Pumpkin Seeds
To start we have to get out the seeds. Start by settling the pumpkin on a chopping board and carefully cutting down from outside of the stalk with a strong knife facing away from you. Cut right to the base and towards the middle. Turn it around and once again cut from the other side of the stalk and away from you. There’s usually no need to cut through the stalk (which can be tricky). At this point, most will split easily.
Incidentally, the best pumpkins for making soup with, or as a great replacement for mash potatoes, are usually the smaller to medium sized ones. Look for a pumpkin with a bright color, firm stalk and less scarring or discoloration.
The healthiest way to cook them is to cut them into inch-wide strips and steam them in a steamer. Once soft, you can scoop out the flesh fairly easily.
For an amazing pumpkin soup, lightly fry some onions, garlic and turmeric in some organic extra virgin coconut oil. Add this mixture, along with a cup of BPA-free coconut milk and the still warm pumpkin strips, to a blender and blend it all up for an great tasting and very filling soup.
Back to the homemade pumpkin seeds. Simply scoop them out by hand, stringy bits and all, into a bowl. Depending on what you do with them, you may or may not need to remove the stringy bits, but don’t be afraid of them. Being some of the brightest colored parts of the pumpkin, they’ll be full of antioxidant carotenoids like beta-carotene.
If you’re going to roast the seeds, like most people do, you’ll need to remove the stringy bits and wash them. To dry them, put them on a tea towel (not on a paper towel as many websites advise, unless you want paper coated seeds).
Before roasting them though, please have a read on why raw pumpkin seeds are so much healthier and check out the far better alternative below.
Lightly Frying Pumpkin Seeds for Better Nutrients and Taste
The raw seeds are full of essential fatty acids and other nutrition that can be damaged by the prolonged high temperatures used in roasting. Homemade pumpkin seeds do taste good warm though.
Looking for a healthy compromise, I came up with a method to lightly fry them at a temperature low enough to preserve the essential fatty acids, while still making them taste great.
Here’s what to do. Start with half a teaspoon of organic virgin coconut oil and heat it on a low temperature in a pan with a lid. The temperature really should be low, just enough to melt the coconut oil.
Coconut oil, by the way, is a very healthy oil to use for cooking. See the page on pumpkin seeds calories and fat, for details on why it is far superior to the oils most people are using.
Once the coconut oil is coating the bottom of the pan, add the pumpkin seeds straight from the pumpkin. Don’t wash them and don’t worry about a few stringy bits. They are good for you and add a bit of flavor.
Swirl them in the pan to coat them in the coconut oil and put the lid on so they are just gently frying on a very low heat, with the covered pan slightly steaming them as well. Don’t leave them for too long. We definitely don’t want them turning brown.
After about a minute and a half and the occasional swirl or shake of the pan, I like to add a little flavoring. My favorite is a small dash of tamari swirled in. Other good options are crushed garlic, a dusting of curry powder or chili, and even cinnamon and a little honey for a sweeter option.
Lightly fry for a further thirty seconds, then serve and eat straight away for an amazing taste. While this method does soften up the seeds quite a bit, occasionally you will get a couple that are a bit chewy. This is usually with the seeds from the larger pumpkins. The choice is yours, but it’s fine to swallow the shells. They are just good fiber.
Of course raw is still the healthiest way to eat homemade pumpkin seeds. There is no reason at all to not eat them straight from the pumpkin and just chew the shells a bit longer for the extra fiber. Still, if it’s a choice between roasting and this low heat frying method, I believe this is the healthier and better tasting option.
Next are some different and unusual ways to eat the seeds more often and get more of this wonderful superfood into your daily diet.
Liked this post? Subscribe to the RSS feed for more!