There was a time when I used to scoop the flesh out of the middle of the pumpkin and toss it in the trash without a second thought. But those days are over.
Ever since I discovered how easy and tasty it is to use pumpkin seeds, not a pumpkin has been used in our house without retrieving the seeds first. And it's not just because I'm obsessive about minimising waste.
When you fry them with a bit of olive oil and spices, pumpkin seeds become a delicious snack/ingredient that also just happens to be the single best vegan protein source in existence. At least, that's what a Pinterest pictograph told me once.
Here's how easy it is. Each step helps loosen and separate the flesh from the seeds so that you can get rid of a little more flesh each time until you're left with just the seeds.
1. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin.
2. Pull the bulk of the pumpkin flesh away from the seeds and discard.
3. Put the seeds and remaining flesh into a glass of warm water and soak for 10 minutes.
4. Tip the seeds into a colander and pull away as much flesh as you can.
5. Tip the contents of the colander onto a sheet of paper towel.
6. Put another sheet of paper towel on top, push down onto the seeds so it sticks, and flip both bits of paper (with the seeds stuck between) in one go.
7. Pull away the top sheet and use your fingers to scrape any seeds that are stuck back onto the bottom sheet.
8. There shouldn't be much flesh left at this point. The seeds slip easily across the wet paper towel, while the flesh tends to stick, so use your fingers to slide the seeds into one corner, leaving all remaining flesh behind.
9. Tip the seeds onto a fresh sheet of paper towel, fold the paper towel in half over the seeds, and rub the seeds dry. Open the paper towel back up, tip the seeds onto a plate and let them dry. (You can leave them on the paper towel to dry, but the paper might stick to them.)
From here you can either store the seeds in a container until you're ready to use them, or move straight on to frying them up with some spices.
Just heat a little olive oil over medium to high heat in a small saucepan, add the seeds, and cook until starting to brown (first photo), about 3–5 minutes. Then sprinkle with a smattering of salt and spices, and continue cooking until they are a deeper brown (second photo), about 2–4 minutes. If you're unsure of how much spice to add, go easy and sprinkle a little more on later if needed.
What spices to use? My favourite is ground cumin and a little chilli, but today I went for smoked paprika and loved that as well. Salty sniffed them out from the balcony so I gave him a couple and he loved them too (not that he's a particularly discerning cat when it comes to food).
How to use them? They're an amazing snack in and of themselves, but they're also great with eggs on toast, or mixed into a salad. You can also substitute them in any recipe that calls for pepitas (which are just hulled pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, or anything similar.
So there you have it! If it still sounds like too much effort for a few seeds, as I say to all my veterinary clients when I suggest a new treatment: Try it once, and then decide whether it's worth the effort! (Trust me, it is.)