As leaves change, temperatures cool, and autumn begins, so does the season for all things pumpkin! The first Wednesday in October is National Pumpkin Seed Day! Today we’ll be serving up some pumpkin seed history and factoids along with some easy recipes for roasting and seasoning them.

Salty? Sweet? Spicy? The flavor possibilities are endless for these tasty little pumpkin nuggets. Try salt & pepper, Worcestershire Sauce (think Chex mix goodness), ranch, pizza, dill pickle, cinnamon/sugar, maple, pumpkin pie, sweet and spicy, taco, or Old Bay. None of these flavors work for you? You can really add any flavorings you want with a couple of spices or a spice mix to fulfill any craving.

A Brief History and the Facts:

Many of us throw out the ‘guts’ after carving their Jack o’ Lantern, but if you put them in the oven instead of the trash you’re left with a tasty treat that’s also good for you. Pumpkin seeds have been valued for dietary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. In fact, archeologists excavating a tomb in Mexico have traced the seeds as far back as 7000 BC. Pumpkin seeds were a revered food among many Native American tribes, in parts of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean (Greece especially), and they became a regular part of everyday culinary and medical traditions in India.

In comparison to other nuts and seeds, Pumpkin seeds are one of the most nutritious plant-based foods. A fourth cup serving includes an immune-boosting 17% of an adult’s daily allowance of Zinc and 15% of the iron needed for red blood cell- support. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains nearly 9 grams of plant-based protein, that’s more than a hard boiled egg ounce for ounce

Pumpkin seeds without the shell are known as ‘pepitas’ in Spanish, which means ‘little seeds of squash’. Pepitas can be seasoned and dry roasted like the seeds with the shell. They can also be added to salads, oatmeal, baked goods, even ice cream.

The Recipe:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Oven Temp. 375 Cooking Time: 15-20 Minutes Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Alternate Oven Temp: 300 Cooking Time: 20-30 Prep Time: 20 Minutes (for Extra Crunchy Seeds without the risk of burning)

INGREDIENTS:
1-1/2 Cups Raw Pumpkin Seeds (Cleaned and Unless Drying Overnight)
2 tsp. olive oil (substitute any oil of your choice or butter)
Seasoning mix of your choice (see below for some suggestions)

PREPARATION:
Before you begin you’ll need to make a decision on seed drying. You can either dry them by hand or leave them overnight sandwiched between towels. Both options work well, and neither way affects the tastiness of the final product. You’ll also want to choose and combine your seasoning mix ahead of time to cut the preparation time. If not drying the seeds overnight preheat your oven to 375 (or 300 if you’re taking the low and slow roasting route).

Clean your pumpkin seeds. You can either rinse the seed mass in a bowl of cold water to start, or use your fingers to separate the seeds from the insides of the pumpkin. Once you have most of the insides separated, place the seeds in a colander under cool running water, agitate with your hands and pick off the pumpkin strings.

Once you have the seeds clean they need to be dry before you roast them. To dry the seeds you can dry them overnight spread out between two dishtowels (or sheets of paper towel) on a rimmed sheet pan. Alternately you can take extra time and dry the seeds by hand with a towel or paper towel. The seeds will not get crispy in the oven if they are wet, the steam will prevent proper cooking.

Combine the seeds, oil, and seasoning mix of your choice in a bowl. Make sure that the seeds are coated well.

Prepare your sheet pan by coating it with cooking spray (for easier clean-up cover the pan in foil or parchment paper), spread out the seeds to give them plenty of room to get crispy.

Check your seeds after 15 minutes (20 if low and slow), roast until golden brown. Stir seeds 2 or 3 times throughout cooking time.

SEASONING OPTIONS:
Cinnamon Sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt (this is important, it makes the cinnamon & sugar pop)
Watch the Temperature with the sugar it can burn if it cooks too long or too hot, low and slow is the best cooking option with this mix.

Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Ranch                                                                    
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dill
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Pizza
1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
(Add a pinch of tomato powder if you happen to have it lying around)

Dill Pickle
2 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. dill
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Sweet and Spicy
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Maple
1 1/2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Quick and easy Seasoning Options
Taco: 1/2 pkt. Taco Seasoning Mix
Salt & Pepper: 1/2 tsp. sea salt & 1/2 tsp. black pepper (or less to taste)
Pumpkin Pie : 2 tbsp. brown sugar & 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Old Bay: 1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning & 1 tsp. kosher salt