Naked-seeded pumpkin success…sort of

As a kid, my mom would scrape out the seeds from a pumpkin (usually a Jack O’Lantern) and bake and season them for a snack. As an adult I discovered the kind of pumpkin seeds you can buy in the store, and started adding them to all manner of things: on top of salads, in cooked cereal, sprinkled on supper…

Apart from loving them, I didn’t give pumpkin seeds much thought until a few years back, when I had a run in with a bag of rancid seeds that numbers among my most horrendous food experiences. The death-like flavour pervaded everything it touched and made me want to cut out my own tongue. Overly dramatic? Yes. But even these years later, when I get a hint of a rotten taste in my mouth, the memories of the horrible rancid pumpkin seeds come flooding back.

At the time, I asked my local organic food purveyor (from whom I’d bought the seeds) whether anyone else had had the same problem. Not that he knew of, he told me. But the time of year meant that they were on the tail end of last year’s crop, which might explain the rancidity. Not only that, but the only organic pumpkin seeds available to him came from China.

These bits of knowledge combined to make me lose virtually all interest in buying pumpkin seeds. My burgeoning interest in local and seasonal food made me question the wisdom of eating stale old pumpkin seeds transported all the way from China. That combined with the horrid rancid seed experience made it relatively easy to decide to give them up.

A little later on, as I was starting to grow more and more of my own food, I began to dream of growing some of the things that I’d decided to cut back or give up on buying. And pumpkin seeds were one of them. For a long time I assumed that the pumpkin seeds from the store came from any old pumpkin, and that there was probably some industrial process for removing the hulls. But actually, the pumpkin seeds we buy are grown hulless–they come from a “naked seeded” pumpkin variety that’s been around since about 1880, and has been in cultivation since about 1925.

I discovered the naked seeded pumpkin last year when I was planning my seed order from Jim Ternier at Prairie Garden Seeds. So I ordered some, and last summer grew them. Finally, months later, tonight I cut into my first home-grown naked-seeded pumpkin. My roommate prepared a delicious fish and pumpkin curry, and I roasted the seeds to add on top. Yum.

As a dual purpose pumpkin, the naked seeded pumpkin gets a mixed review. The flesh had a decent texture, but was pretty much totally bland. The seeds, on the other hand, were excellent. It did take a little while to pick them out, but in the end I got about 1/2 cup of seeds from the one pumpkin.

I don’t know how many pumpkin plants I’d have to grow to have enough seeds for my morning granola, and even if I had the space to ramp up my pumpkin production, I’m not sure I’d find enough ways to make use of the abundant but mediocre flesh. Apparently naked seeded pumpkins actually make good livestock feed, so maybe once we get urban dairy goats legalized in Regina that will be another use for them. But until then, I will relish my pumpkin seeds, try out some new pumpkin recipes (suggestions are welcome!), and save a few seeds back for planting this spring.

References and thanks to:

Throwback at Trapper Creek
Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative
The Simple Green Frugal Co-op

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