You have seen them on salads, in snack packs and “fancy” granola. They appear a rare delicacy of the seed world, and their sexy name gives them an extra appeal.
Yes, they are seeds that come from a pumpkin, but they come from a special variety of pumpkins called Hulless pumpkins, which produce a smaller seed without a shell (hull). They have that beautiful forest green color, which is how you know they are pepitas and not just a pumpkin seed. In comparison, the traditional orange pumpkin produces white seeds with a hard outer layer.
My family at Fry Family Farm in Southern Oregon grows a number of specialty pumpkins and gourds, among them are the Kakai Hulless pumpkin, shown here.
I admit that although I knew pepitas were different from pumpkin seeds I never bothered to determine the distinction until I was given access to a pepita pumpkin from the Fry Family Farm. Before this I had only seen pepitas for sale at the store or in a dish at a restaurant.
The Kakai pumpkin is beautiful! I left it out for decoration over the fall for a few weeks before I decided to eat it. When I cut into the pumpkin, which was surprisingly light, I was delighted to see the dark green seeds on the inside. I knew what pepitas look like, but to see them in the raw from their source was so fun!
The process from there was the same as I have done for many a year during Halloween pumpkin carving; scoop the guts out, separate the seeds onto a tray, season the seeds and bake. Which I did, following the directions below (I like the salt, pepper and garlic combo).
- Raw pepita seeds from one hulless pumpkin (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Sprinkle of salt and ground pepper
- Optional spices: sprinkle of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, dill or other dried herbs
On baking sheet or in small bowl toss the raw seeds with oil and spices until coated, spread out thin on baking sheet and place in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring half way.
The seeds were far more crunchy and lite to taste than pumpkin seeds from the old jack-o-lanterns, with a nutty bold flavor. Needless to say they didn’t last long. They were devoured mostly as a snack, but also on a few salads.
Pepita Nutritional Facts
A one ounce serving contains a healthy dose of:
–Fiber (5 grams)
–Protein (5 grams)
–Unsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 (4 grams)
–Magnesium (18% daily value)
–Potassium (7% daily value)
–Iron (4% daily value)
I went a step farther with my hulless pumpkin and baked it! I found the flesh to be sweet and soft, much like a baking pumpkin, with thin skin that was easy to remove. I baked it in two halves on a lined baking sheet until tender, let it cool and blended it. Half was used for pumpkin muffins and the rest is currently frozen for later use.
From my pepita experience I am reminded how exciting it is to explore new plant varieties and cooking methods.
There is so much to learn about where are food comes from and ways to use it!