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October 31, 2013

Pumpkin seeds are tasty, nutritious

Native Americans were the first to use pumpkin seeds as food — and they were on to a good thing.

The seeds are not only tasty but also are pretty healthy. They’re low in cholesterol and sodium and are a good source of protein, magnesium and zinc.

And what better time of the year to roast pumpkin seeds for snacks than Halloween? You already remove the seeds to carve pumpkins, so why not salvage a snack from the refuse along the way?

Pumpkin seeds can be tough to separate from the membrane scooped from the guts of a pumpkin, but we’ve got some help from the pros.

One method is to soak the seeds in water, letting the membranes fall to the bottom of the bowl and the seeds float to the top. But Tom Sisco, chef and kitchen manager at Oryana Natural Foods Market in Traverse City, Mich., has a more thorough technique.

“The best way to clean them is to rinse them the best you can by hand, spread them out and pat them dry,” said Sisco, whose wife throws a pumpkin-carving party every year for the couple’s nieces, nephews and grandchildren. “Once they’re dry, take a vegetable brush and get the rest of the stuff off with the brush.”

The seeds are good roasted plain or with salt, but you can dress them up, too. Sisco’s favorite recipe is for sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds and calls for brown sugar, Worchestershire sauce and hot pepper. Or try sprinkling the seeds after roasting with a little brown sugar, cinnamon or paprika.

To roast seeds plain, the chef recommends placing them in a 275- to 300-degree oven for a half-hour to 45 minutes, depending on how many seeds you’re roasting and how crispy you want them. Flip the seeds in the pan halfway through to prevent burning and to encourage more even roasting.

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