by Matt Gibson
If you are feeling festive this fall and want to know how to harvest pumpkin seeds from your garden, how to prepare and eat pumpkin seeds, and how to store them for future use, this article covers all the bases. Pumpkins are distinctly flavorful and highly nutritious members of the winter squash family. These giant orange gourd melons are traditionally carved every October to create Halloween jack-o-lanterns, or pumpkins stacked uncarved on festive front porches spook up neighborhood.
Alongside this seasonal tradition, the seeds of the pumpkin are a favorite holiday treat when they’re harvested, roasted, and enjoyed by the fire during the chillier months of autumn and winter. Read on to learn everything you need to know about putting the tasty seeds of the pumpkins you grow in your garden on the table as a savory snack, with warm, salted pumpkin seeds that you’ve roasted to a golden brown.
Harvesting Pumpkins to Use for Eating Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Before you can begin harvesting pumpkin seeds, you will first need to harvest the vine-ripened pumpkins from your garden. Typically, you will want to harvest your pumpkin patch anytime before the first hard frost of autumn, but the patch will let you know when those pumpkins are ready for picking.
First, the vines begin to die and turn brown, while the pumpkins become bright, with a hardened rind. Using a sharp, clean pair of scissors or garden shears, gently cut the pumpkin from its vine. If you want a more detailed look at everything you need to know to raise perfect pumpkins, check out our How to Grow Giant Pumpkins article.
Removing Pumpkin Seeds Before Roasting
Use a sharp, thick knife to cut around the top of the pumpkin, creating a removable lid. Use a sharp metal spoon to scoop out all of the seeds and pulp, then place the innards into a large bowl of water.
Separating Pumpkin Seeds from Pulp Before Cooking
After washing your hands, use them to separate the pumpkin seeds from the pulp, placing the seeds into a colander and throwing the pulp into the compost. (Just toss them into the garbage if you don’t have a compost heap).
Rinse the seeds off thoroughly in cool water, rubbing them together with your hands to remove even more pulp. Don’t worry about getting every last morsel of pulp off of the seeds, as whatever bits cling to the shells will only provide a bit of extra flavor and nutrition.
Drying Pumpkin Seeds to Roast Them
Once the pulp has been satisfactorily removed, allow the pumpkin seeds to drain until dry. Then, spread the seeds out into a single, thin layer on top of a clean surface like a dish towel or a brown paper bag. If you are in a rush to get the pumpkin seeds roasted for an upcoming meal, feel free to break out a blow dryer (yes, a blow dryer for styling hair) to speed up the drying process a bit.
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds for Eating
Roasting your own pumpkin seeds is a fun, tasty, and nutritious way to get the most out of your pumpkin patch. Set your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, then allow it to preheat.
Spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly on a cookie sheet in a thin, single layer. Drizzle the seeds with butter or your preferred cooking oil. (We recommend using olive, sesame, or canola oil). For an added boost of flavor, season the seeds with one or more of the following: garlic salt, worcestershire sauce, lemon pepper, and sea salt. For signature fall flavors, try ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Want to crank up the heat level? Add a dash of cayenne pepper, cajun seasoning, or a splash of tabasco.
Roast the seeds until they turn a golden brown, which will take between 10 and 20 minutes. To keep the seeds from getting scorched, stir the seeds every five minutes or so until they have finished roasting.
Eating Pumpkin Seeds rom Your Garden
Once the work is complete, it’s time to enjoy the fruits (or seeds, as the case may be) of your labor. It’s perfectly safe, natural, and especially healthy to eat your pumpkin seeds, shell and all. However, if you dislike the texture of the outer shell, you can eat them just as you would sunflower seeds, tossing a few seeds into your mouth, cracking the outer shells with your teeth, spitting out the shells and chewing up the seed inside.
Pumpkin seeds are truly a healthy snack. They provide your body with a lengthy list of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, including vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, as well as plant-based proteins and Omega-3 fats. Pumpkin seeds are also chock full of natural antioxidants such as vitamin E, which fight the spread of free radicals and help protect your immune system against harmful bacteria and disease.
Pumpkin seeds are even more nutritious if you consume them whole, shell and all, as the shells are high in dietary fiber that will help keep your digestive system functioning properly. For folks on a strict diet, pumpkin seeds should pose no concerns, as an ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds contains only 125 calories, 15 carbs, and zero cholesterol.
Storing Pumpkin Seeds
Perhaps you want to save your pumpkin seed harvest to roast and consume sometime in the near future. Or maybe you were fond of a certain unique heirloom pumpkin and want to grow it again next year. Whatever the reason, harvesting and storing pumpkin seeds is a very simple process.
Cut open the lid of the pumpkin as described above, placing the seeds and pulp into a colander. Place the colander under running water and begin to separate the seeds from the pulp by hand, picking the seeds out of the pulp while running cool water over the mixture.
If you are storing your pumpkin seeds to roast for future use, you will want to remove the majority of the pulp from the seeds, discarding the pulp as you separate the two. If you are storing your pumpkin seeds to plant next season, you will not need to store every seed available, as you will never be able to plant and cultivate that many pumpkins.
In general, you will want about three times the amount of seeds as the amount of pumpkins you plan to grow. So, once you have a good amount of seeds rinsed off, look them over and select the largest ones for storage, as they will have the best chance at germination.
Don’t worry about removing every last morsel of pulp, but remove the majority of the pulp before drying. Place your rinsed pumpkin seeds on a dry paper towel, spacing them out so that they don’t stick together. If you are storing the seeds to roast at a later date, you can use a hair dryer or a food dehydrator if you like in order to dry them faster, or allow them to air dry on the paper towel for about a week.
If you are storing the seeds to plant, you will want to store the paper towel and drying seeds in a cool, dry place for one week. Once the seeds are completely dry, place them in an envelope and store with other seeds that you plan to grow next year.
Properly Storing Pumpkin Seeds for Future Planting
When storing pumpkin seeds for next year’s planting, it is best to keep them in a location that is both cold and dry. An ideal storage spot is in the refrigerator. Place your pumpkin seed envelope in a plastic container and create several holes in the lid of the container to keep condensation to a minimum on the inside of the container. Put the container with the seeds inside at the very back of the refrigerator.
When it comes time to plant your pumpkin seeds next year, they will be fresh and ready for the task. If cleaned, dried, and stored properly, your chances of successful germination will be very high, and you will have a new harvest of ready-to-carve jack-o-lanterns to enjoy in the coming fall.