Pumpkins are as synonymous with this time of year as the falling leaves themselves. From pumpkin spice lattes to jack-o’-lanterns, this earthy fruit signals the start of fall and the upcoming Halloween holiday. We all know that making a jack-o’-lantern is a fun family activity, but do you know the history of this annual tradition? And did you know that you can make a tasty snack from the seeds of a pumpkin?
The carving of pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns has been a great American tradition for centuries. It’s something we learned from the Irish, who migrated to the United States in the 1800’s. Back in Ireland, people would carve scary faces out of turnips to protect them from a bogeyman called Stringy Jack. Legend has it that Jack was denied entry into both heaven and hell, and was doomed to roam the earth for eternity. When the Irish immigrated to America, they carried the tradition with them and started using pumpkins instead of turnips.
Every year, millions of Americans use jack-o’-lanterns to get into the Halloween spirit. Sadly, this tradition often leads to food waste and other environmental problems. Many people don’t know that the innards of the pumpkin can be repurposed into delicious meals and snacks. The flesh can be used to make a creamy pumpkin soup, perfect for chilly autumn nights. Pumpkin flesh can also be used to make delicious baked goods such as pumpkin pie, muffins and pumpkin bread.
Even the seeds of a pumpkin can be turned into a tasty, healthy, snack. These seeds are packed with valuable vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and vitamin K. They’re high in antioxidants and are a great source of dietary fiber. When roasted, pumpkin seeds become crunchy and nutty. They’re a great snack on their own, or they can be added to homemade trail mix or used to add texture to salads.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are super quick and easy to make. Before you begin, prepare a work area on a table or counter. You may want to spread some newspaper for easier cleanup. Have a strainer and a large bowl of water nearby, as well as a few sheets of Rakot75 reusable cloth towels. You’ll be using these sheets to dry the pumpkin seeds prior to roasting. They’re also great for cleaning up any spills on the counter or floor. You may want to reserve a sheet for wiping your hands, which are bound to get messy in the process. Using a sharp knife, cut a large circle at the top of the pumpkin and remove, along with the stem. With a metal spoon or ice cream scoop, remove the seeds and put them in a large bowl of water as you go along. Continue to scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin until it’s hollow. If you want to make pumpkin soup, save as much of the flesh as you can.
Put your hands in the bowl and gently separate the seeds from the pulp. Use a strainer to rinse the seeds under cold running water. If there’s still some pulp left behind, don’t worry about it. Spread the seeds out onto the sheets of Rakot75 cloth paper towels. Let them air dry or use a hair dryer if you’d like them to be ready right away. Avoid using disposable paper towels, as the seeds will stick to the paper and you’ll have to start all over again. You can store the dry seeds in an airtight container if you’re not ready to roast them just yet. Reducing food wastage and enjoying plant-based foods are both tenets of sustainable living. By using up the seeds and flesh of your jack-o’-lantern, you’ll be having a more environmentally-friendly Halloween. And when you choose reusable cloth towels, you’ll be one step closer to having a zero-waste kitchen.
When you’re ready to roast, go ahead and preheat your oven to 275°F (135°C). While the oven’s heating up, spread the pumpkin seeds evenly on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil. Combine melted butter with olive oil and drizzle the mixture onto the seeds. Next, you can season the seeds however you like. Sea salt, lemon pepper, and garlic salt are great for a savory snack. For something more autumnal, try seasonings such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. If you like things spicy, cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning should do the trick. Use your hands or a spatula to ensure they’re evenly coated with the butter, oil and seasoning. Roast the seeds in the oven until they’re golden brown, which typically takes 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!