Further adventures with naked seeded pumpkin

The naked seeded pumpkin experiment continued this week with attempts at pumpkin gnocchi and seed saving (click here to read my last pumpkin post). We came across a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in Amy Jo Ehman’s wonderful local eating resource Prairie Feast: A writer’s journey home for dinner, and since gnocchi is (in my experience) a little bland anyway, we decided to that my naked seeded pumpkin might be a good fit.

The gnocchi itself is made up of one egg and three cups each of flour and pureed pumpkin, seasoned with salt, pepper and (on Ehman’s recommendation) cinnamon. So I cut open my pumpkin, removed the seeds, and baked it until soft. This particular pumpkin was one that I had been careful to hand pollinate in order to avoid cross pollination and save the seeds for the coming year’s planting. I rinsed the seeds and laid them out on a tea towel to dry (not the best idea since they stuck to the towel and had to be peeled off one by one).

Upon returning to the gnocchi, I pureed the pumpkin and mixed it with the egg and freshly ground flour. The dough seemed exceedingly sticky, but I decided to leave it to rest as it was.

An hour or so later we set about constructing our gnocchi: we spooned little dollops of the dough into boiling water and then removed them when they floated to the top. At this point it seemed confirmed that I’d left the dough too wet: the dumplings didn’t keep their shape and looked nothing like the well-formed gnocchi that I’ve had before. Undeterred by their somewhat unappetizing appearance, we kept forming gnocchi until we had more than enough for the three people we needed to feed.

In keeping with my experience of both naked seeded pumpkin and gnocchi, the dumplings themselves were a little bland. But we served them with our “best ever” arugula pesto (frozen in muffin tins into pucks last summer), which makes everything it touches delicious.

All in all, it was a good use of the pumpkin and a tasty meal that was fun and easy to prepare. Next time I’ll aim to add a little extra flour to make a drier dough, which will hopefully help the gnocchi keep their form. I’ll also experiment with seasoning in hopes of addressing the bland factor.

We used the remaining dough the following morning to pan fry a pumpkin pancake of sorts. With yogurt, sour cherries and homemade peach preserves on top, it was a tasty brunch. The seeds, now dry and in storage, will be saved to exchange at Regina’s Seedy Saturday and plant in the spring.

Go forth, team naked seeded pumpkin!

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

Snuggling up with my seed catalogues

Seed CataloguesIt’s chilly outside today, as it should be in January in Saskatchewan. But I’ve got my mind on the warm days of summer, when my garden will be growing and I’ll be seeking shade and an ice cold lemonade. I’m already pouring over seed catalogues, dreaming about favourites from last year and new varieties to try.

All my seed ordering will be from companies specializing in organic, open pollinated, and heritage varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruit and flowers. If you care about biodiversity and/or are interested in becoming more self-sustaining by saving your own seeds, check out these wonderful resources:

Seeds of Diversity – From their website: “A Canadian charitable organization dedicated to the conservation, documentation and use of public-domain, non-hybrid plants of Canadian significance […] Members receive our 40-page magazine Seeds of Diversity twice a year, plus our annual Member Seed Directory which allows members to obtain samples of over 2900 varieties of seeds and plants offered by other members in exchange for return postage.”

Heritage Harvest (Carman, Manitoba) – Current personal favourite! This is a family business in Manitoba that produces a wonderful (if simple) catalogue detailing their many heritage seeds, many of which are extremely rare. This labour of love is a solid operation worth supporting.

Prairie Garden Seeds (Humboldt, Saskatchewan) – Another labour of love! Jim Ternier also focuses on heritage seeds, and offers a good selection of grain seed. Last year, our small grain patch produced three kinds of heritage wheat, quinoa, amaranth and hulless oats, all from Jim. Unfortunately, I did grow some spaghetti squash seed from Jim that was clearly crossed with something, so his systems aren’t fool proof. That said, it’s a great prairie resource that is well worth supporting.

West Coast Seeds (Delta, British Columbia) – A much bigger operation, but I can’t help it–their fancy colour catalogue seduces me. And they do focus on certified organic, heirloom and open pollinated untreated seeds.

Happy seed selection to one and all!

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