Raw pumpkin is one of my top ten all-time favorite smells. Each fall when I slice into my first pumpkin, alongside the sweet aroma of good, healthy dirt I catch whiffs of late autumn frosts, chimney smoke, Halloween, and football.
I've been carving jack-o-lanterns since forever, but regretfully, I'd never toasted pumpkin seeds until last year. It always seemed like too much work to separate them from their slimy strings, not worth the effort for a simple seed. But oh, was I mistaken. Not only are pumpkin seeds easy to gather, when lightly oiled, salted, and toasted, they are superior to any potato chip on Earth, rich and crunchy with a dry, nutty flavor like burnt popcorn. I ate my first batch in one shot, straight off the cookie sheet.
Both of these are pumpkins. The squat orange fellow is your traditional October door step variety, while the long green guy is a called a long pie. Grown for their narrow seed cavity, long pie pumpkins yield more flesh per pound than other varieties. Their seeds are fewer and easier to remove than those of jack-o-lantern and sugar pumpkins. Long pies are mostly green when harvested and turn orange as they ripen.
As you can see, the Long Pie is dense and the guts are easily scooped away. A good choice for baking, but I'm after seeds.
The small round pumpkin had a much larger cavity and held three times as many seeds.
To gather seeds for toasting, scoop all the pumpkin innards into a large bowl. Separate and discard any large stringy pieces (this is fun—pure preschool sensory joy). Cover the seeds with a few inches of cool water, and swish your hands around in the bowl. Most of the seeds will float to the surface; scoop them out onto a kitchen towel. Work the remaining seeds free of their strings. Discard the orange goop and rinse the seeds clean.
Dry seeds will toast faster, but drying them is not necessary. Some websites will tell you to use a blow dryer; I found this ineffective and I felt stupid doing it. Just pat the seeds as dry as you can, and toss them with enough olive oil to coat. Spread the seeds on a large baking sheet and season with sea salt, black pepper, chili pepper, cinnamon, or anything else that strikes your fancy. (I used a mixture of plain and smoked sea salt, and they were phenomenal.)
Toast the seeds at 300F for 5 minutes, then toss them. Keep checking on them and tossing every 5 minutes until they're light brown and beginning to smell wonderful. How long this will take depends on how wet your seeds were; mine were pretty wet and took about 35 minutes. Allow the seeds to cool on a paper towel for a few minutes before diving in. Just try to stop yourself from eating them all at once.
Your next project is to peel, chop, and cook the pumpkin, but you can do that after your snack.
These pumpkins together yielded a little more than 1 cup of seeds. Toasted pumpkin seeds keep up to one week in a sealed container.