The smell of pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven brings back memories. As a girl, my favorite part of the fall season was seeing Dad at his creative best. Daniel Martinez was a busy school teacher with a tax preparing business on the side, but come October, he clicked into action, sewing Hallowe'en costumes, molding paper mache masks and crazy animal heads for the kids to wear. Of course, we also carved pumpkins. Dad brought his old-country Mexican know-how to our Halowe'en tradition: we use every part of the pumpkin, he told us, especially the delicious pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Almost as satisfying as the trick-or-treat candy, for us, the taste of salty, crunchy pepitas made the holiday complete.
Pumpkin seeds, along with the fleshy part of the fruit are recognized by nutritionists as superfoods. Native to the Americas, squash is a new-world gift that keeps on giving. The seeds are rich in cholesterol-reducing fatty acids, and a quick source of both fiber and protein. Pumpkin seeds are very high in magnesium which the body needs to maintain strong bones and a well-functioning nervous system. The flesh of the pumpkin, eaten in pies, as soups, or roasted in savory dishes is high in vitamins A, C, lutein, and other beneficial nutrients. Whether you grow our own, or visit the pumpkin patch this fall, please don't forget to savor the seeds.
Pumpkin Seeds, by M.Martinez
Commercially processed pumpkin seeds are shelled, so they are green, in color. Pepitas can be shelled after roasting, but we always ate them "shell-on". The white outer layer is thin, so it becomes crisp and tasty in the oven. Here is Dad's quick method for toasting pumpkin seeds:
Daniel Martinez in the 1960s
- As you scoop out the pulp of the pumpkin, separate the seeds with your hands (kids enjoy this squishy job!)
- Place seeds in a bowl of very salty water (add as much salt as the water will hold).
- After a few minutes of soaking, remove the seeds from the water and clear away any remaining pulp.
- Place on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for about ten minutes, checking often to see that they do not burn. Seeds are ready when a hint of golden brown can be seen on the white husks. For additional flavor, try sprinkling chile powder or a dash of lime juice before baking.