Seeds are often cast aside as a health fad, an embellishment to your diet or a craze that can be ignored. But seeds deserve better. They're miniscule powerhouses of protein that can be eaten as is or rolled into breads, desserts, granola bars, pretzels and even purees.
Every plant has a seed but only a few of them are high on flavour and reek of health benefits. Previously, we've featured flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, and listed out the health benefits of each. But now it's time for pumpkin seeds to share the spotlight.
Pumpkin seeds, known as 'pepita' or 'pepita de calabaz' (little seeds of squash) in Spanish are creamy, crispy and bite-sized seeds of the pumpkin fruit. They make a terrific snack-on-the-go and make an equally good ingredient for all your culinary ambitions.
There are two varieties of pumpkin: the 'baby bear' pumpkin is small in size and has pale, white-coloured seeds. They have a stubborn layer of hull around them which gives them a tough and chewy texture. The other kind of pumpkin is the 'Lady Godiva' pumpkin which is bigger in size and has muddy, green coloured seeds. The 'baby bear' pumpkins are the ones you get in India and the other kind is commonly found in the United States. They're also used for carving during Halloween.
The white seeds have a bit more hull around them which makes them mildly chewy and rough. Hull is a dry outer covering which is usually found on fruits and seeds. If you find raw seeds difficult to eat, try pressing them with a rolling pin and then boil for about half an hour. The green seeds can be enjoyed raw as well, or you could roast them real nice. And we promise they'll be worth the wait.
How to roast pumpkin seeds: Take a handful of seeds and place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil and mild seasoning and roast them in an oven till they're golden brown and toasty. You could also roast them in a pan and choose to ignore the oil as well. Make sure you store these seeds in an airtight container since molds grow easily on them.
A Spoonful of Health
One of the questions that haunts every vegetarian is - how can I get my fair share of protein? Protein is absolutely crucial as it speeds up your metabolism, ramps up your body strength and helps you focus. And this is where seeds come to your rescue. Pumpkin seeds especially are extremely high on both protein and fibre making them a terrific snack that can be enjoyed during any time of the day.
Pumpkin seeds are also rich in natural oil. But could eating too many seeds make you fat? The answer is a firm no. According to Michael T. Murray and Joseph Pizzorno's book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, "Because of the high oil content of nuts and seeds, one would suspect that frequent consumption of nuts and seeds would increase the rate of obesity. But a study of 26,000 Americans found that people who consumed most nuts and seeds were less obese."
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc which works as a mild aphrodisiac. Zinc also encourages the renewal of cells, repairs damage and promotes healthy hair. These seeds are also one of the top sources of phosphorus, which pumps up your metabolism and is important for energy. Other things that make pumpkin seeds a terribly healthy snack are: they're awfully rich in magnesium which is crucial to a wide range of important physiological functions, pumping of the heart, relaxation of blood vessels and seamless bowel function.
According to Gargi Sharma, weight-management expert, "Pumpkin seeds have anti-inflammatory properties and reduce inflammation, especially for those suffering from arthritis. Pumpkin seeds also promote sleep and lower depression as they're rich in tryptophan."
How to Cook with Pumpkin Seeds
Cooking with pumpkin seeds is a very careful balancing act. They fetch a unique texture to everything they're added to. You can bake them with breads or grind and use them in a sauce. Try sprinkling a spoonful on poached eggs or in pancakes.
Check out these smashing recipes that will give your regular cooking a unique spin.
Masala Seeds Snack - Recipe by Gargi Sharma
Half cup, Pumpkin Seeds
1 tsp Olive Oil
Salt - to taste
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Cumin Powder
1/4 tsp Red Chilli Powder
1. Mix all the above ingredients.
2. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet.
3. Bake in an oven at 300 degree Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes until golden brown and crunchy.
Pumpkin Seeds Pesto Sauce - Recipe by Gargi Sharma
2 cups unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
3 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss pumpkin seeds with 2 tablespoons of the oil and salt, then spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
2. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes till the seeds are puffed and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
3. Combine seeds in a food processor with 1/4 cup water, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro and remaining 4 tablespoons oil.
4. Pulse until mixture forms a coarse paste then season with salt and pepper.
5. Cover and chill until ready to use.