Bright orange pumpkins lie all over the fields on the pumpkin farms in late autumn. No matter if the pumpkin is as big as a toddler and as heavy as a small pig or small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, each orange orb is filled with tiny seeds. Each seed has the capacity to grow into several more pumpkins next year. The seeds themselves are fascinating and can be prepared into a nutritious and delicious snack.
The orange rind on the outside of the pumpkin covers a thick mass of pulp which is the main ingredient in everyone's favorite, pumpkin pie. In the center, arranged in three circular sections are the seeds. They are connected by stringy fibers in a moist cavity. Imagine three cuff-shaped bracelets arranged so that they touch in the middle with the openings facing out towards the surrounding wall of the pumpkin shell. A total of six groups of three sets of seeds are arranged in lines running vertically from the base to the stem of the pumpkin. The seeds must be removed before a pumpkin is carved or cooked.
Each seed is white on the outside and coated with a kind of mucus beneath which are two more layers of outer covering. The top one is thin and transparent, while the inner one is thick and white. Inside, the seed contains a green meat that encloses the embryo that has the potential to grow into a new pumpkin. The root pushes out the pointed tip of the pumpkin seed, and the seedling's leaves sprout from the rounded end.
It takes an average of 120 days for a pumpkin seed to grow into a ripened pumpkin. Giant pumpkins take about a month longer, averaging around 150 days. While it is possible to sow the pumpkin seeds directly in the field or garden well after the last frost day, since pumpkins require warm sunny days to sprout, it is often recommended that pumpkin seeds be sown indoors to germinate. Sprouting can be expedited by using a nail file to scratch the seed all over except on the pointed tip where the root will emerge. Before planting the seed with the point down, put them in warm water for a couple of hours. It should take four to six days to sprout. After the first pair of seedling leaves has been replaced by true pumpkin leaves, they are ready to be transplanted into the garden.
Besides recycling the seeds to grow new pumpkins, they make a delicious, nutritious snack. First they must be removed from the pumpkin shell and boiled in water for about ten minutes. This will soften them. Drain the water off the seeds. Spread them out on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with a shortening. Sprinkle them with salt and bake them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let them cook. Store them in an air tight container and serve them as you would nuts.
Pumpkins were introduced by the Native Americans who grew them for food. They have emerged as an autumn tradition used at Halloween to carve jack-o-lanterns and at Thanksgiving as a symbol of plenty. Not only are they delicious when sweetened and baked into a pie, they can be cooked to make breads, soups, and even served like squash as a vegetable side dish. Pumpkin seeds contain the future for all of these traditions. While hybrid pumpkins do not produce fertile seeds, traditional varieties still produce viable seed.