I love pumpkin seeds, but the ones I can buy at the store closest to my house are from China, and that seems rather far away for a pumpkin seed. I understand that I can’t have a coconut palm or a mango tree in my backyard in the Pacific Northwest, but I can certainly grow a few pumpkins in the sunny spots. However, if you want to eat the seeds of those pumpkins, you have to grow the right variety. Most regular Jack’o'lantern type pumpkins have big seeds with a coarse white hull that isn’t very much fun for chewing. I suppose you could try and remove this hull, but that sounds like way too much work. Better to just grow a pumpkin with tasty green hull-less seeds. I’ve so far found two varieties that are quite good for this: Snack Jack (previously called Snack Face, I think?), from West Coast Seeds, and the Styrian Pumpkin from Saltspring Seeds. I see on the West Coast Seeds website that they are now also selling a pumpkin called Kakai, which looks similar to the Styrian one from Saltspring and boasts similar qualities of seed and cool-weather ripening. I’ll have to give it a try next summer!
The description of the Styrian Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo styriaca, pictured above) , from the Saltspring Seeds website:
“Naked (hulless) seeds are eaten raw or toasted. Sprawling plants produce about six 15-pound pumpkins. Light-coloured flesh can be used in zucchini recipes, pumpkin soup and stir-fries or be grated into winter salads. Will ripen even in cool wet summers.”
Did you read that last part? WILL RIPEN EVEN IN COOL WET SUMMERS. This is a highly important factor when you live on the wet coast of British Columbia. Of all the squash I grew this summer (which was pretty darn cool and wet until August), the Styrian Pumpkins grew the largest. Of course, all my squash were grown out at the garden plot, and I was only able to visit and water about once or twice a week. With more care and attention they would all have been more productive, I’m sure. Still, I ended up with a nice harvest of pumpkins and kabocha. The Styrian Pumpkins were larger than the Snack Jacks, and had more seeds, but the Snack Jacks had sweeter, orange flesh that caramelized when roasted. I’d recommend growing both kinds. Also, if you want sweet pumpkin flesh for pies, go for the Small Sugar variety – or just use Butternut squash, which in my opinion has some of the tastiest squash “meat” around.
Oh right. You want to know how to grow these pumpkins. Well, wait until the soil is warm and night temperatures are above 10°C, probably in late May or early June in this part of the world, and then direct seed into your warmest, sunniest location. You can start them indoors earlier and transplant them outside, but they don’t enjoy their roots being disturbed and, like all plants, just hate abrupt change, so this requires more care. It’s easier to plant the seeds outdoors in the spot where you want them to grow. Pumpkins are pretty easy to grow, in general – the only thing to keep in mind is that they want to take over the world. They’ll sprawl all over your garden, so make sure they have enough space. If you try growing them in shade or partial shade, they tend to get all mildewy and shrivel up into nothingness, so make sure they’re in a nice hot spot. Other than that, rich compost and water and you should be all set. West Coast Seeds has a more detailed guide to pumpkin growing if you want more details.