By Becky Streeter
You’ve heard of vegetable and olive oil, and maybe even coconut and grapeseed oil. But chances are likely you don’t have pumpkinseed oil in your cupboard. And if you think you can stash away the innards from those Halloween jack-o-lanterns, you will be surprised to find out that it’s a bit more complicated to extract this delectable kitchen complement.
It’s not that pumpkinseed oil is new, per say (the Austrians have been using it for more than 300 years!), it’s just new to the United States, even though we pretty much invented the pumpkin in the first place. Way back in the day, Christopher Columbus was so impressed with pumpkins that he brought them back to Spain. The awe ensued and soon the American pumpkin was finding its way all over the continent. The Austrians started digging in to these new plants and discovered a myriad of health benefits, including a great ratio of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as well as Zeaxanthin (a specific beta-carotene known to help the health of the macula in the eye). Not to mention a fantastic taste.
In the early 2000’s, Ken Seguine and Jay Gilbertson discovered this amazing product and immediately fell in love. “We had never tasted anything like it,” Seguine says. “If you’ve ever roasted pumpkinseeds, that’s what it tastes like. It’s delicious. Almost everybody that tries it likes it.” At the time, Seguine worked for Aveda, which was founded by a man from Austria. Seguine was gifted a bottle of pumpkinseed oil at a trade show. After one taste, Seguine and Gilbertson figured it was high time for America to reclaim the pumpkin and the benefits it has to offer.
Hay River Farm near Menomonie opened in 2005 and became the first American source for pumpkinseed oil. An 80-acre organic certified farm named for the river flowing behind it, Seguine and Gilberston thought it would be a great place for pumpkins. “Westarted off testing about 12 different varieties to identify one that worked for us,” Seguine says. They finally landed on naked seed or hulless pumpkins–a naturally occurring genetic mutation discovered in 1870 in the Austrian fields. They grew a test crop, and the oil turned out great. They’ve been sharing it ever since.
Seguine says, “Itmakes a great vinaigrette salad dressing or a wonderful bread dip–just pour on a plate, salt, and dip bread. You can also have it on top of popcorn, vegetables (especially broccoli and asparagus), and even on vanilla ice cream with a little salt.”
Hay River pumpkinseed oil can be found at Just Local Foods and Menomonie Market, or you can order straight from their website at https://www.hayriver.net/.