Pepitas are pumpkin seeds; they are commonly eaten toasted. The word pepita may refer either to the entire pumpkin seed within its hull or to the inner kernel of the pumpkin seed. Pepitas are a popular snack, particularly in Mexico. They have been a part of Mexican cuisine since Aztec times, and they may be obtained from a variety of different types of pumpkins. Mexico, China, India, and the United States are the primary commercial producers of these edible seeds.
Many grocery stores offer some form of pepitas for purchase, and they may also be found at health food stores. Whole pepitas in their hulls are sold both salted and unsalted. They can also be made at home by removing the seeds from the pumpkin shell, drying them overnight, and roasting them over low heat. They are usually toasted and flavored with salt, lime, or chiles.
Like whole pepitas, shelled pepita kernals are sold both salted or unsalted. They may be bought raw or toasted, and they are a common ingredient in salad dressings, salads, and Mexican sauces called moles. Salt, lime, and chiles are frequently used to enhance the flavor of these as well.
Ground pepita kernels are often used in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and muffins. The ground form of these edible seeds is also used in Mexican sauces. It is recommended to grind the kernels at home prior to use for maximum flavor and freshness instead of purchasing them already ground.
Like other edible seeds, pepitas have a high fat content which makes them turn rancid if they are not stored properly. They can be placed into airtight containers and kept in the refrigerator for approximately one week. If frozen, they can be stored for a period of six months, or longer.
Numerous health benefits are associated with the zinc naturally present in pumpkin seeds. These reported benefits include improved prostate health and increased bone mineral density in men, and anti-inflammatory properties in those with arthritis. Studies have shown that the phytosterols contained in these seeds may have the potential to lower bad cholesterol, decrease the incidence of some types of cancer, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
Pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family. Their seeds tend to be dark green in color and flat in shape. The husks of the seeds are yellowish white. They are high in both flavor and nutritional value.