Thrifty Whitties: Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Olivia Jones

My housemates and I decided to celebrate Fall Day this week. This wonderful new holiday is devoted to autumnal activities and drinking hot, spiced beverages such as mulled wine, hot chocolate and hot buttered rum. Who would have thought that butter, spices, hot water and rum would be delicious? When I was living in Japan, I was charmed by the dedication to appreciating the seasons that is tradition over there. I often wish that America had similar cultural traditions of celebrating what is in season instead of insisting on strawberries and hothouse flowers all year round.

To begin our Fall Day, my housemates and I went to a produce stand and pumpkin patch past Wal-Mart, near Basel Cellars. This patch had more varietals of pumpkin and squashes than I knew existed, and after tromping around, petting cats and perusing rows of squash we all settled on our favorite carving pumpkins and even a few sugar pumpkins. Baking with pumpkins is an activity that has been dramatically simplified by canned pumpkin, but if you were tempted to try your hand at a baking with pumpkins from scratch, the variety you most likely want is the sugar pumpkin. Be forewarned however that this process will take hours longer and a fair bit more effort than opening a can.

While one of my housemates struggled valiantly with her sugar pumpkin, the rest of us happily carved faces onto our jack-o-lanterns. Once all of the large pumpkins had been gutted, I eagerly sorted the seeds from the fibrous innards, omitting any ones too small, into a bowl for roasting. Roast pumpkin seeds are the main reason I carve pumpkins. Their crunchy, salty deliciousness is irresistible and pairs very well with hot chocolate and books on tape around the fireplace. My housemates and I devoured our first batch within minutes of removing them from the oven.

The first step to roast pumpkin seeds is to make sure that your seeds are clean. In a bowl or a sieve, wash them until all the pumpkin fiber has been removed and they feel less slimy. After draining them, pat them dry with a towel and transfer them to a large baking pan. If you have a lot of seeds, roast them in batches because they will roast best if they can lie flat in a single layer on the baking sheet. What you choose to roast them with is a matter of personal taste and ingredients on hand. Use an oil (canola or olive), melted butter or margarine to lightly drizzle over the seeds on the baking pan, and then liberally cover them in salt. Add more salt than you believe necessary or prudent. In addition, feel free to add any other spices you have on hand. Think of them like Chex mix–you can make them sweet or savory, throw chili pepper or curry or cinnamon, or whatever else is at hand.   Personally, I am a traditionalist and I am happy with just salt and olive oil.

Roast pumpkin seeds are hard to mess up–the main danger is burning them. I recommend heating the oven to approximately 350 degrees. After you have put the tray in the oven, do not forget to check back every seven to ten minutes to remove the tray and stir the seeds. It is important to shuffle them on the tray in order to ensure that they roast on both sides. Once the majority of the seeds have turned brown–somewhere between golden and toast–take them out and taste a few. If they are satisfactorily crisp, you can begin enjoying them.   I wish you all a happy Fall Day, and hope you take the time to celebrate it before winter rolls around!