Variety Spotlight: Pepitas Pumpkin

This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

Pepitas F1 Pumpkin is a 2016 All-America Selections winner that is certainly aptly named. Most squash and pumpkins have edible seeds, but usually they have a tough outer layer covering the tender edible part inside. The Pepitas Pumpkin has hulless or ‘naked’ seeds that lack the outer hull, making them easier to process and eat. This is my first year growing this new selection, though I have grown a similar variety called Kakai a few years back. Collectively these Cucurbita pepo cultivars are known as oil-seed or Styrian pumpkins, and are grown commercially to produce pumpkin seed oils.

Pepitas Pumpkin

Pepitas Pumpkin

Pepitas Pumpkins grow on rambling vines, and take around 90 days to mature their fruit. My vine produced three pumpkins, the first one ripening almost exactly 90 days from sowing the seed. The pumpkins themselves weighed between seven and eight pounds, and are decorative as well as edible. Each pumpkin had right at a cup of seeds inside, which are fairly easy to remove from the pulp. I have to say I was quite pleased with how Pepitas performed in my garden. I look forward to growing it again next year.

inside of Pepitas Pumpkin

inside of Pepitas Pumpkin

Once the seeds are removed, they can be prepared in a number of ways. They can be roasted in the oven, either as-is or with added ingredients, but I tried to keep ours closer to the raw state. I rinsed the seeds in a colander to remove any bits of pulp, then soaked overnight in a salt water solution using a teaspoon of sea salt in a cup of water. In her popular book Nourishing Traditions, author Sally Fallon says that soaking in salt water mimics the Aztec practice of soaking pumpkin seeds in a brine before letting them dry in the hot sun. I find our dehydrator does a good job of drying, and with predictable and controllable results.

seeds from Pepitas Pumpkin

seeds from Pepitas Pumpkin

After draining and rinsing, I spread the soaked seeds out on a dehydrator tray, trying to keep them in a single layer. I set the dehydrator for 115°F and let the seeds dry until they were crispy dry, which took about eight hours. I turned the seeds occasionally, shuffling them around on the tray so they dried evenly. The thin seed covering dries up and can be winnowed away if desired, though it’s edible. The seeds have a great flavor, fresh and not strong like some I have bought. They are addictive, and I don’t think they will be around long enough to test how long they keep!

dried Pepitas seeds

dried Pepitas seeds

The flesh of Pepitas Pumpkin is also edible. I roasted one in the oven, after scooping out all the seeds, and it took about 90 minutes in a 400°F oven to get tender. I pureed the cooked flesh with an immersion blender, and it was not at all stringy after processing. I have to say I generally prefer the C. moschata pumpkins and winter squash for processing into puree, but Pepitas made a mild tasting and smooth puree. Fans of the C. pepo and C. maxima pumpkins and winter squashes should consider giving Pepitas Pumpkin a try both for the seeds and the flesh.

pair of Pepitas Pumpkins

pair of Pepitas Pumpkins

I hope you have enjoyed this Spotlight on a pumpkin that is both edible and ornamental, as well as easy to grow. In 2016 seeds for Pepitas are available from J.W. Jung Seed Company, and from Park Seed Co. I’ll be back soon with another variety.

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9 Responses to Variety Spotlight: Pepitas Pumpkin

  1. Margaret says:

    I’ve been waiting for this review and I’m excited to hear that this variety was a winner…it’s now on the list!

  2. Lou Murray says:

    Fascinating. Do you eat the shells? I don’t like all that fiber and prefer my pumpkins seeds pre-shelled.

  3. Will - Eight Gate Farm - NH says:

    Nice! I’m a big fan of roasted pumpkin seeds, and am too lazy to crack them open before eating. Your results make me want to try this variety. Much less roughage in my diet!

  4. Michelle says:

    I have considered growing a pepitas pumpkin a few times and always hesitated because I didn’t think it would be worth the space it would take up. But it seems like this variety is worth trying, especially since the flesh is edible too. I love pepitas and I have to imagine that home grown and prepared ones have got to be better than store bought. Do you think the vines would be manageable on a concrete remesh trellis?

    • Dave says:

      I let the vines sprawl this year, but I plan on trying a remesh trellis next year. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. I doubt the pumpkins will fall off the vine, since I had to cut the tough stems with pruners.

  5. Mary Wildfire says:

    I appreciate this review since I’m (now definitely) going to buy this variety. I too tried the Kakai–with a poor yield of small pumpkins, from one of which I harvested eight seeds…and then I tried the next year and got zero germination. Usually squash seeds are good for five years or more, but, duh, that’s what the hull is for. So I guess hulless seed pumpkins must be planted the year after harvest. Your review suggests that with decent care and luck (the squashes are going in a less well fenced plot this year) I can expect a decent yield of seed–as for the flesh, I think moschatas are more tasty and more reliable and yet I wind up giving a lot of the butternuts to the chickens. But I’m hoping to get goats and then plenty of squash flesh will be useful. And these being pepos won’t cross with them (I wonder what I’d get if I tried planting these seeds? Might try it).

    • Dave says:

      I believe I only got one Kakai the year I grew it, and it didn’t even have many seeds in it. And FWIW I got the same Pepitas seeds to germinate two years in a row. I didn’t do anything special to preserve them either, just my usual storage at room temps in a plastic shoe box type container.

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