Pumpkins are a type of squash that is native to North America. They are one of the oldest domesticated plants dating as far back as from 7,500 to 5,000 BC. It may be that squashes, like the pumpkin, were cultivated even before crops like beans and corn.
Often known by their Spanish name, “pepitas”, there are over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin produced each year in the United States alone, with each pumpkin containing about 500 seeds.
Widely grown for commercial use, they are used for food and decorations. In the United States and Canada, pumpkin pie is a traditional dish on Thanksgiving. Pumpkins, called Jack-o-lanterns, are carved by children and adults for decoration during Halloween.
AUSTRIAN PUMPKIN SEEDS
Seeds from pumpkins are used as garnishes, in soups and as snacks. But there is one variety of pumpkin seed that has become increasingly popular, and it comes from the Styrian pumpkin.
Styria, in the southeastern region of Austria, is known as the country’s “green heart”. This is where the Styrian pumpkin is cultivated. What makes the Austrain pumpkin seed unique is that they are hull-less, dark green and have a thick dense texture.
The pumpkin is orange in color and banded in a dark forest green. Inside, a silver colored membrane covers and protects the seed, which makes the entire seed edible. This characteristic of the seed was due to a mutation that occurred about 100 years ago during the 19th century.The pumpkin itself is not used as a food item, as the pulp of the Austrain pumpkin is not palatable. Instead, the pulp is spread back into the fields after harvest to be used as fertilizer.
GROW YOUR OWN
If you decide that you would like to grow your own Austrian pumpkins, look for seeds that say “Styrian” or “Austria Oil Seed” in the description.
These pumpkins like heat and a rich soil. They are also susceptible to rot as they do not have the same tough outer shell as a traditional pumpkin.
Helping to alleviate that rot, use a cradle for the pumpkins to keep them off of the ground and protected.
The beauty of the melon cradle is that it can be used for pumpkins, melons, cantaloupe and squash. As mentioned, the outer skin of an Austrian pumpkin tends to be a bit fragile. The cradle keeps the pumpkin off of the ground.
The melon cradle protects your crop from bugs and moisture, giving your pumpkin the air flow that it needs and promotes even ripening.
The cradle is sturdily made so that you will not be replacing these eight melon cradles at the end of the growing season, but will be using them again for the next crop.
Plant your pumpkin seeds in hills with three to four plants per hill. The seeds should be planted about a half to an inch deep in the soil. Space each hill about four to six feet apart. Rows of hills need to be a foot and a half to two feet apart.
If you want to get a head start on planting, you can start your pumpkin plants indoors in two to three inch pots about three weeks before planting them out of doors. Remember to make sure that all danger of frost has passed before planting outside.
Remember, too, that you will be growing and cultivating the pumpkins for the seeds inside. The pulp of an Austrian pumpkin is not palatable, but toss it back into your garden to fertilize the soil.
SEVEN HEALTH FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRIAN PUMPKIN SEED:
1. A GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN AND FIBER
An amazing thing about Austrian pumpkin seeds is that just ¼ cups will contain 9 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. They will help you feel full and satisfy your appetite.
It is important to get both protein and fiber in your diet each day. Both help with regulating bodily functions. Protein is not stored in your body, and so you need to make sure you get some each day.
Fiber helps us to maintain our health by aiding in the digestion and elimination of waste from our bodies. In general, men and women should consume between 38 and 25 grams of fiber every day.
If you are hungry between meals or just have a tendency to snack, these pumpkin seeds would provide a healthy option.
2. RICH IN VITAMINS
A rich sources of B-vitamins, these seeds also contain vitamin E and K. And although they are small, they are packed with potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and copper. Whew!
In addition to that, just one cup of these marvelous seeds will give you 89% of your daily requirement for vitamin K. You probably know that this vitamin is essential in helping your blood to clot. Vitamin K also protects your heart and helps you to build stronger bones.
High in vitamin D, these little seeds will go along way in helping to protect your bones and assist in absorbing calcium.
You will also get 40% of your daily need of vitamin A in a half cup. Plant sources for this vitamin are a better choice than animal sources of vitamin A. It is easier to over-consume with animal sourced vitamin A, which can lead to toxicity, as this vitamin is not water soluble.
3. GREAT FOR VEGETARIANS
These seeds are a boon to both vegans and vegetarians. It can be hard to get enough plant-based iron and zinc in your diet, and the Austrian pumpkin seeds have both of these minerals.
Flavorful, the seeds are also extremely versatile. They can be eaten on their own as a snack, or incorporated into various dishes and recipes.
Mixed into oatmeal, or tossed into a salad they add flavor and texture. Throw some of the seeds into your pasta sauce or add as topping on pizza. They can be put into breads, biscuits and muffins.
4. IMPORTANT SOURCE OF ZINC
A strong immune system needs zinc. Our bodies need zinc to help heal cuts, scrapes and wounds. Another important function of zinc is in the preserving of our vision and guarding against age-related vision loss.
As one of the best plant based sources zinc, pumpkin seeds are a tasty way to get the zinc that your body needs. One fourth cup of raw pumpkin seeds gives you 2.57 mg of zinc, about 17% percent of the daily requirement for adults.
5. CONTAINS GOOD FATS
A way to get “good” fats, these pumpkin seeds supply some essential fatty acids, both monounsaturated oleic acid and omega 3.
The calories in pumpkin seeds come mainly from the polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats in the seeds.
Although this does not make them a low calorie food, they are very filling, and an excellent replacement for junk food snacks. The seeds will fill you up quicker and help you to feel full longer.
The monounsaturated oleic acid in the seeds is the same healthy fat that is found in both olive and avocado oil. This oleic acid is what is considered a benefit in raising good HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol.
The seeds are best raw, as using high temperature to roast them can damage the acids in the seeds.
6. CONTAINS ANTIOXIDANTS
Pumpkin seeds are overachievers in that they do not contain one specific form of antioxidant vitamin E, they contain a broad spectrum of the antioxidant family in multiple forms.
According to Wikipedia, “antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage the cells of organisms”.
There are studies that suggest antioxidants might aid in heart disease and autoimmune diseases.
7. PUMPKIN SEED OIL
The oil made from Austrian pumpkin seeds is known as “the green gold”. While pumpkin seed oil should not be heated as it could damage the ingredients in the oil, it can be used on salads, beef, mushrooms, and in cold soup and egg dishes.
The pumpkin seed oil has a nutty flavor and can be used for main dishes and desserts. The oil has been used by those who value the anti-inflammatory effects when a teaspoon is added to their diet daily.
As the Austrian pumpkin seed contains vitamin E and antioxidants, you can also use the oil on your skin as a moisturizer.
If you are interested in learning a bit more about the history behind the Austrian pumpkin seeds, the video below will give you more of the background of this remarkable seed.