April 08, 2020

Say hasta la vista to pumpkin seed hulls

What do pumpkins and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common?

You can consider that trick-or-treat question while we ponder pumpkins.

But not just any pumpkin. We’re talking naked-seeded pumpkins.

They also might be called hull-less or hulless depending on where you look.

I love pumpkin seeds, and last spring when I saw that Johnny’s Selected Seeds offered a hull-less variety, I thought I’d give it a try.

‘Kakai’ has a rather dramatic look: Its smooth fruit are striped with black and orange. Up close, the black turns out to be more of a deep green, but from a distance it leans toward black.

The plants are considered semibush and did extremely well during this past summer’s overly wet conditions. When I spotted the first fruit, it was already sizable, but I had my doubts as to whether it would keep until fall. I generally don’t grow the best pumpkins, and most tend to rot long before September rolls around.

I always thought it had to be some sort of fungus or disease causing that to happen so frequently, but I just read a most curious piece of information online from Wikipedia by way of answers.com. It said that, historically, it was the native squash bee – and squash is a native crop – that was the pollinator for squash. But it is believed that pesticides have decimated that bee’s populations. Now it is the honeybee that does most of the pollination. And it said that inadequate pollination is the biggest reason for pumpkins that start growing and then abort. Folks think that it is a fungus, however, that did it, so they use pesticides to stop it and …

Talk about your vicious circles.

Anyway, this year also produced the usual invasion of roving bands of squash bugs, those creepy armadas that feint back and forth over the plants and the fruit as you walk by.

I figured the pumpkins were doomed.

But before I knew it, August turned into September and then October and the pumpkins were still doing OK. The largest one is among the heftiest I’ve managed to grow in some time. The smaller ones are about pie-pumpkin size, which are typically the ones I grow best. None of them is huge, with the biggest probably near 10 pounds.

Last weekend, I picked one of the smaller ones to try, scooping out the pulp and seeds, which are a nice green, sort of a deep sage in color.

I removed the pulp and tossed the seeds with a bit of sea salt and roasted them in the oven.

I ended up eating almost all of them by myself.

I also carved a two-toothed happy face into the pumpkin, but that is neither here nor there.

The seeds, as I found out with a little research, are a good source of essential fatty acids, potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin seed oil pills are even available.

I’d rather eat the seeds.

My digging also showed that this unique cultivar of hull-less pumpkin seeds originated in the area of Austria, Slovenia, Yugoslavia and Hungary, where it has been grown for more than a century. These types of squash are often called Styrian pumpkins. They also are called Austrian pumpkins because Styria is a province of Austria.

In fact, Styrian pumpkin seed oil is a pricey delicacy, if the online sites are any indicator.

Perhaps someday I will try it. But until then, I can grow Kakai and snack to my heart’s content.

Have you figured out the Arnold-pumpkin connection?

It turns out that Styria didn’t just turn out hull-less pumpkins. The governor of California also was born and raised there.

I know there’s a joke in there somewhere. Let me know if you find it.

Janine Pineo’s e-mail address is jpineo@bangordailynews.net.

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