I thought we could take a break from our inflammation series for a quick recipe share. With cold and flu season in full swing, I try to incorporate natural approaches to boosting the immune system at every opportunity. There are so many foods that fit the bill, but a favorite household snack of mine is pumpkin seeds.
I often buy the pumpkin seeds in the shell. They have a pleasant mild flavor, and eating them with the shell on offers a nice array of vitamins and minerals. With the shell intact, the seed retains that all important layer of nutrients. We get more from the food when we eat it. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, pumpkin seeds offer a good source of zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and even vitamins A, C, B6, folate and riboflavin (2016).
However, I also like to buy the already shelled pumpkin seeds. I buy them in raw form so that I can prepare them myself. I choose to follow the traditional method of preparation which involves soaking raw nuts and seeds overnight in clean, filtered water. This allows the seed bran to soften and open up, also breaking down the phytic acid naturally contained within. This harsh outer coating on the seed, nut or grain, protects the valuable nutrients stored inside. It acts as a toxin and deterrent to would be consumers (insects, animals, and people). When we soak, we release these acids and make the nutrition more readily available to our bodies (Nagel, R., 2010). Generally, a light seed such as a pumpkin seed, only needs to be soaked 6-8 hours. Heartier seeds and grains may require more time.
Once soaked, I drain my seeds and give them a little time to air dry. This is a good time to prepare your flavor spices and oils. I prefer to use a high heat stable oil, such as coconut or avocado oil. As this particular recipe is savory, I’m going with avocado oil. To this I add fresh chopped garlic, cayenne pepper, turmeric, black pepper, sea salt, a little raw honey, and possibly some oregano or thyme. All of these ingredients are natural immune boosting powerhouses. And they happen to pair well nicely! Pour this mixture over the seeds, stirring thoroughly to evenly coat the mix.
Spread the seeds in a thin layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 175 and place the tray inside. I let this cook slowly for a longer period of time, sometimes as long as the whole afternoon. It smells wonderful while it’s cooking, and this time of year the warmth in the kitchen is a welcome feeling. I have also bumped the temperature up to 350 for a few minutes to give it a last minute crispiness, but watch this carefully. It goes from nicely toasted to sadly burnt quickly!
Once you are satisfied with the texture of your seeds, allow them to cool and then store in a glass jar with a tightly sealed lid. They will keep for a long time, though mine tend to disappear rapidly. Eat them as snacks on their own, add to salads, grind to a paste and eat with cheese and vegetables, or sprinkle on top of hummus. There are many ways to enjoy these tasty treats, and you will love them so much you won’t even remember you are eating them to keep you healthy and strong!
Immune Boosting Pumpkin Seeds
- One 16oz. bag of shelled pumpkin seeds, raw
- 1/8-1/4c. Avocado oil
- 2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4c. local, raw honey
- Spices, to taste:
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 175.
2. Soak shelled seeds over night in clean, filtered water.
3. Drain and allow to dry slightly.
4. Prepare mix of oil and spices in a small bowl.
5. Place the seeds in a large bowl and pour the spices and oil over the top. Mix thoroughly.
6. Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
7. Cook for a few hours, checking every so often and turning them over to roast both sides.
8. Taste occasionally and when satisfied, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
USDA Agricultural Research service https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3695
Nagel, R., (2010). Living with Phytic Acid. Weston A. Price Foundation. retrieved from :http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/living-with-phytic-acid/