Pumpkin season is underway in Vermont.
Local farms offering pumpkins include: Isham Family Farm in Williston, Intervale Community Farm in Burlington, Sam Mazza’s Farm Market in Colchester, Paul Mazza’s Fruit and Vegetable Stand in Essex Junction, and Whitcomb’s Land of Pumpkins in Williston.
The question is though: after you carve a pumpkin, scoop out the ‘guts,’ and place a candle inside, what can be done with the seeds?
The answer is: a lot! Food, gardening, and art are some of the many applications.
Here are some creative ways to get the most out of your pumpkin seeds.
When prepared properly, pumpkin seeds can be highly nutritious, according to a 2020 article by the Harvard Medical School.
“Pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium, a mineral that’s important for keeping blood pressure in check,” the article stated. “They’re also a good source of several other minerals, unsaturated fats, and fiber.”
The University of Illinois Extension website provides the following recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds:
- Preheat the oven to 250°F.
- Pick through your seeds and remove as many of the “stringy fibers” as you can, while keeping the shells on.
- Bring one quart of water to a boil with two tablespoons of salt. Add two cups of pumpkin seeds and boil for 10 minutes.
- Drain the pot and spread the seeds on a towel. Pat dry.
- Toss the seeds in a bowl with vegetable oil or melted butter.
- Spread the seeds evenly on a baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes.
- Allow the seeds to cool. Shell them and eat!
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Roasted seeds can be added to smoothies, granola, or yogurt bowls.
Make Pumpkin Seed Butter
For a nutritious, nut-free alternative to peanut butter, look no further than this pumpkin seed butter recipe from the nonprofit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:
- Start with four ounces of roasted pumpkin seeds.
- Pulse the seeds in a food processor “until they are ground like thick sand.” Let them sit for a few minutes, and then pulse again.
- While continuing to pulse the seeds, slowly pour in three tablespoons of cooking oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil.
- To sweeten the mixture, you can add two tablespoons of agave nectar. Honey also works well.
- Refrigerate in a sealed container.
Preserve seeds to survive the winter
The wonderful thing about pumpkin seeds is that you can preserve them through the winter, and then plant them to grow new pumpkins in the spring.
According to a 2020 article by the University of New Hampshire Extension:
- Viable seeds can be separated from pumpkin pulp by placing the pulp and seeds in a glass jar with a bit of water.
- After stirring the mixture a couple of times a day, the viable seeds will sink to the bottom.
- Pour out the jar into a colander, rinse the seeds, and place them out to dry.
- After a couple of weeks of drying, the seeds should make a rattling noise if you shake them. The thing rattling inside is the actual “seed” part of the seed. The outer container is the shell. If rattling, open the shell and remove the inner seed.
- Store the seeds in tightly sealed glass containers, like mason jars. The seeds should be kept at 32-41°F, so the refrigerator is a good place for storing them.
- Placing a silica gel packet (unopened) inside the container with the seeds can be helpful for keeping the seeds dry.
- Pumpkin seeds should last a year – so be sure to plant them in the spring!
Plant new pumpkins in the spring
While the pumpkin seed storage process might be a little involved, once the seeds are ready to be planted in the spring, they are a fairly low-maintenance crop.
According to a 2019 article by the University of New Hampshire Extension:
- The ideal time to plant pumpkin seeds in New England is late May to early June, “once the chance of frost is completely gone and the top few inches of soil have reached at least 60°F.”
- Plant the seeds in garden soils that are well-drained, high in organic matter, and get a lot of sun. Hills are great for pumpkins because they allow excess moisture to drain away, but flat ground also works.
- Add compost, lime, and fertilizer to the soil, depending on the needs of the soil.
- Allow adequate spacing between the pumpkin and other crops. Large pumpkins may require as much as six feet!
- Pumpkins have shallow roots, so keep an eye on weeds.
- If there is no big rainfall, water the seeds once a week, so that the soil is moistened 6-8 inches below the surface.
- Keep an eye out for pests.
- Allow 90-120 days for the pumpkins to reach maturity. They are fast growers!
Make Pumpkin Seed Pesto
To spice up your pasta dish, try this pumpkin seed pesto recipe from the Utah State University Extension:
- Combine in a food processor: two cups of pumpkin seeds, four tablespoons of olive oil, a quarter teaspoon of sea salt, two tablespoons of lemon juice, three cloves of garlic, one cup of fresh cilantro, and a quarter cup of water.
- Blend, cover, and chill until the pesto is ready for use.
- Add to pasta, bread, salad, or anything else that needs some pumpkin-y zest in your life!
Make pumpkin seed art
While pumpkin seeds can be valuable additions to your diet and garden, they are also great in your art supply cabinet!
Pumpkin seeds can be dyed with liquid watercolors, and then arranged on paper to make pumpkin images, glued to drawings of fall trees to represent colorful leaves, or even attached on strings to make necklaces.
If you still have leftover seeds after all these creative pumpkin seed applications, the last thing you can do is put them in the compost.
Whatever you do, don’t put them in the landfill! It is illegal to put food scraps in the landfill in Vermont.
Contact April Fisher at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia