Friday, October 25, 2013

Free Pumpkin and Roasted Seeds

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! – Bob Marley 

My free pumpkin. Partway through my pumpkin abattoir.

This info is a re-post from last year but bears repeating. Free is good. 

This weekend starts the "Halloween Party Season." Even though trick-or-treat night for the kids isn't until next Thursday, many pumpkins will be sacrificed for party decorations starting today.

Last year, on November 1, I discovered that one of the major grocery stores was actually giving away their Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins. Yes, giving them away. Another store had them for 50¢. Currently they are selling for around $4-$5. (Prime example of supply and demand.)

In the waste-not want-not vein, have you ever thought about getting a pumpkin solely for food? Not only can you use the flesh, but also the seeds. I wouldn't suggest using your carved pumpkin, unless you're very careful about keeping it cold. Even then... just be safe with your food.

But keep your eyes peeled for the deep discounts sure to occur right after Halloween.

Did I say it was free?
Nutrition in pumpkin
Pumpkin (including squash) is incredibly rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It is low in calories, contains Vitamins A, B, C and E, and carotene, lutien and xanthin (antioxidants) in high quantity. It’s one of the most common field crops grown for commercial sale.

A 50 g (1/4 cup) serving of pumpkin contains 123% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin A, essential for maintaining eyesight. That's very little pumpkin.

The health benefits of pumpkin are being studied more and more. Research suggest xanthin may slow macular degeneration, a very common problem in the elderly. Pumpkin also contains healthy doses of copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorous.

The cubes and seeds, separated. That bowl is
my bread bowl. It is fairly large.
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are an excellent source of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids. The seeds are a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins. They are also an excellent source of the amino acid tryptophan that helps maintain brain health.

How to deal with a whole pumpkin
So last year I picked up a free pumpkin – not too big, but not too small either. Once it was in the car a sense of dread overcame me. What would any sane person do with all that pumpkin?

Well the short answer is you can freeze it. Yes – no parboiling, baking, steaming or processing of any kind. Just peel it, cut it up, bag it and throw it in your freezer. I divided up my yield into six zip-lock bags.

It did take a little while to reduce the thing down to a pile of cubes and bowl of seeds, but it was worth it. It also didn't take me long to think of a recipe to use some up.

One was "pumpkin pie" frozen yogurt which was posted last year. Search that name on this site. If you expand your pumpkin repertoire past desserts the world actually opens up quite wide. Lots of countries make fantastic savoury dishes with pumpkin. Just go look.

Free food.
Besides the six bags of pumpkin I was able to get about one cup of seeds. Roasting them proved to be insanely easy.

Pepita is the Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seed. They are used quite a lot in Mexican and Latin cuisines, either whole, chopped or ground, and are quite a tasty snack just on their own with a little salt.

Nutritionally, besides what I said above, the seeds are a good source of protein as well as many important minerals. For example, 25 grams of pepitas have 20% of our recommended daily amount of iron.

The trick to roasting pepitas is to bake them long enough to make the husk crispy and chewable without burning the inside. It’s a somewhat dedicate line to walk but not too difficult. If you do get a pumpkin, or are inspired to get one now, don’t throw away the seeds! They're sort of like a bonus on top of all the nutritional pumpkin flesh.

The seeds will start to colour somewhat when they're ready.
Roasted Pepitas
Prep: 10 min  |  Bake: 20-30 min
Seeds from 1 pumpkin, or more
2 tsp vegetable oil, depending on how many seeds you have
salt to taste

Remove the seeds from the pumpkin. Wash under running water taking care to remove any pumpkin flesh that clings to them. Pat them dry or let them air dry.

Cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the washed seeds with vegetable oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on the foil.

Roast at 300°F for 30 minutes, checking at 15 min and every 5 minutes thereafter. Taste one at each interval. The shells must be crunchy but make sure the seed inside doesn’t burn. Stop baking them when you’re happy with their crunch.


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