by Heidi Skurat Harris, guest blogger
Every year, I take my son to pick a pumpkin at a local church fundraiser. He uses two criteria for selection:
- The pumpkin must be perfectly round and unblemished.
- The pumpkin must be perfectly clean.
As anyone familiar with pumpkins knows, those criteria make the perfect pumpkin as common as the Great Pumpkin.
This October 16th, 2021, we found the perfect pumpkin in about 20 minutes. In truth, we found it in the first 5 minutes, but we had to look at all of the rest of the pumpkins (and some twice) before my son could, with confidence, select said pumpkin. I tried to convince him to pick a lumpy, gnarly pumpkin that looked really cool, but apparently because I’m in my mid-40s, I don’t actually know what “cool” means.
(I mention the date because I would like credit for taking the boy pumpkin hunting a full two-weeks before Halloween while there were still a lot of pumpkins to choose from, which almost never happens.)
For the remainder of this blog, I will call the perfect pumpkin Phyllis and my son Darby.
Darby clocks in right at the 25th percentile for height and weight on the pediatrician chart. He can still fit into some 4T clothes and has trouble meeting the height requirements on fair rides.
He’s a little guy.
Phyllis, on the other hand, would clock in at 75th percentile for weight and height at the gourd doctor. If she were a cat, she’d be a chonk. If she were a Starbucks drink, she’d be a trenta–a full 31 oz. of pumpkin spice love.
She’s a hefty girl.
I paid by circumference, so by my estimates, Phyllis was approximately $10 more expensive than a grocery store pumpkin with similar qualities. But I shop local.
Pumpkin carving is an activity that parents both cherish and dread. It’s the fall version of egg dyeing at Easter–fun in theory but the clean up makes you thankful that you don’t have to do it again for another year. My kids pester me to do it for about two weeks leading up to the event and then lose interest about 2 minutes into the work because “This is hard!” and “I HAVE PUMPKIN ON MY HANDS! GET IT OFF RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT DESTROYS ME!!!”
The first step in our pumpkin transformation is scooping out the guts. Unlike human guts, Phyllis’s guts are delicious (unless you’re a zombie, and then the former are more satisfying).
While Darby is slashing at Phyllis (supervised, of course), I bake Phyllis’s delicious innards, in particular, her little pumpkin children. My favorite part of Halloween is not dressing up or handing out candy. My favorite part is roasting pumpkin seeds. I have often thought about buying 12 pumpkins just to get the seeds, but the carving…
Here’s how I roast pumpkin seeds. It’s not an old family recipe that reminds me of my grandma Hattie’s house and her checkered apron. You’d probably get about a dozen better recipes just by Googling “roasting pumpkin seeds.” But it works for me and probably will for you as well.
Recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1. Rinse all the pumpkin intestines off of the seeds in cold water. Like dealing with your Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving dinner while he tells the same story he told last year, seed rinsing takes time and patience. And just as you won’t be able to stop Bob before he gets to the dicey part of his story, you won’t get the seeds fully clean, and, in either case, it really doesn’t matter.
(At this point, you can brine them with salt and water at a boil for 10 minutes, or you can just be lazy like me and skip this step.)
2. Dry the seeds.
3. Season the seeds. Because I am, according to my children “basic,” I use olive oil and salt. You can get fancy, though, and use paprika, black pepper, cumin, garam masala, rosemary, thyme, pumpkin spice, or cinnamon.
For a lower sodium version, you can season them with the tears of your children when their Phyllis-o-lantern doesn’t turn out exactly like the photo on the pumpkin carving instructions.
4. Bake the seeds. I always forget what temperature and what time to bake them for, and every year I promise to write it down and don’t. I have a gas oven, and I bake them slowly at low heat (300 until they’re crispy, flipping once). You know your oven better than I do. So set some heat and watch them until they are done, which will be at least 20 minutes.
5. Let the seeds cool.
6. Store the roasted seeds in a bowl with a tight lid on a high shelf so your kids won’t sniff them out and eat them all in 10 minutes.
My roasted pumpkin seeds are best served with pumpkin ale or spiced cider or a glass of white wine or red wine or, let’s face it, pretty much any beverage that makes you feel better about scraping pumpkin innards off your ceiling fan.