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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.