Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween
Every year 1000s of pumpkins are turned into lanterns and 1000s of tons of perfectly edible and highly nutritious flesh and seeds are tipped into the bin.
I understand that once it has been scooped, chopped and handled it doesn’t always look that appetizing but it’s really worth taking a second look, particularly at the seeds.
Great source of nutritients
Pumpkin seeds are a fantastic source of minerals, particularly magnesium and zinc. The green shelled kernels, also known as pepitas are commonly sold in supermarkets and stores but these are not as good as the white unshelled form, which is harder to get unless you make your own (1,2). The reason the unshelled seeds are so much better than the kernels, is because the highest nutrient content is in the thin papery endosperm envelope that is found immediately under the shell. This is easily damaged and lost during shelling. The seeds are also considerably higher in fibre.
Pumpkin seeds are a very rich and varied source of vitamin E, containing a wide diversity of the forms including alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, and gamma-tocomonoenol. These last two forms are of huge interest to scientists as they are potent antioxidants that appear to be more bioavailable to the body than other forms found in food (3). Pumpkin seeds also contain plant phenols, carotenoids and lignans which as well as being antioxidants and are known to have other health benefits particularly in supporting the kidneys and regulating bladder function (4). Unusually for a seed the kernels are green as they contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has been shown to have anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory properties (5).
100g of pumpkin seeds also contain ~20g of protein, which is more than chicken and only fractionally less than sirloin steak. They contain all nine essential amino acids making them a complete protein (1,2).
How to prepare
After disembowelling your pumpkin, you need to pull away as much of the stringy flesh from the seeds as possible and then rinse in cold water until they are clean. Once clean spread evenly over a lined baking tray and season with either salt, chilli and herbs or alternatively a variety of spices. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and mix until all the seeds are well covered. Roast at 180’C/350’F/Gas 4 for around ten minutes until a light golden brown and then allow to cool before eating.
(3) The worlds healthies foods. whfoods.org
(4) Nishimura et al (2014). Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted from Cucurbita Maxima Improves
Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder. J Tradit Compl Med 4(1): 72-74
(5) McGee (2004) Food and Cooking : An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and
Culture. Hodder and Stoughton.