EFN EXCLUSIVE. Ever purchase toasted pumpkin seeds in the store and wonder how they removed the shell so neatly? In the US, most pumpkin seeds sold are actually dehulled with industrial machinery in China. But instead of using complex machines and global supply-line chains, try growing Chris Homanics’ ‘Emerald Naked Seeded’ pumpkin and produce seeds that are hulless from the start! Unlike most other pumpkin cultivars which have a fibrous seed coat, this variety has been bred to have a thin pliable seed coat which greatly improves the edibility of this oil-rich seed crop. While this variety is primarily grown for its choice edible seeds, the flesh can also be used like a normal pumpkin or squash.
Each fruit holds a pile of green gems which are packed with nutrients and high-quality culinary oils. Naturally low in carbohydrates, these snackable seeds make a highly addictive superfood. Around 40% oil and 25% protein, they are a good source of vitamins B3, K, and E, carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and critical elements like magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Zinc is especially important as it is known to bolster the immune system, including against viruses like Covid-19. Low on the glycemic index, they are a safe dietary addition for diabetics. Diets rich in pumpkin seeds are implicated in lower incidences of certain cancers, improved urinary function, prostate health, and more.
Known as pepitas in Spanish and long used in the Americas, pumpkin seeds are culinarily versatile and can be prepared in a myriad of delicious recipes. Try a traditional recipe like Oaxacan mole verde (green mole) or pipian sauce which use pumpkin seeds as a base. Seeds can also be blended into a nut-butter-like spread, which is even better and healthier when they’re sprouted ever so slightly first. They can of course be chopped and added to breads and cakes. And they make an incredible snack raw, or when simply toasted alone with a little oil and dash of sea salt.
Seeds can also be cold-pressed into a fine oil similar to olive oil for salad dressing, desserts, light frying, or as a finishing oil. The oil has the unique and beautiful property of being dichromatic meaning that it will appear either green or red depending on how thick the oil is while light shines through.
Hulless types of pumpkins first appear on the written record in the 1870s coming out of the Styria region of Austria, where they’re known as Ölkürbis (translated as “oil squash”). Though knowing the great value native peoples placed on the squash seed, both nutritionally and medicinally, it is certainly conceivable that there were traditional pumpkin varieties that expressed semi-hulless or occasionally hulless-seeded fruits here in the Americas.
Widely adaptable, tolerant of poor growing conditions, and durable against even strong disease pressure, ‘Emerald Naked Seeded’ pumpkin has been selected under dry-farming conditions. It’s resistant to both powdery mildew and black rot. Plants tend to set numerous fruits per plant, each weighing from two to eight pounds. It’s best to pick pumpkins as the vines are dying down but before hard frosts. Fruits may still have a greenish appearance in the field but will become solid orange to beautifully striped when ripe. Hulless seed quality improves from at least a month of after-harvest ripening indoors.
The story of this pumpkin begins with Ken Ettlinger of the Long Island Seed Project (LISP). It represents the power of maturing an interbreeding mix or grex of many diverse cultivars of the same species. Ken had spent years collecting all the naked-seeded types he could find, mass crossing, and selecting new forms. From that work, he created two separate populations — one which represented the best of that mix and another called ‘Little Green Seed’ which was developed from a fine flavored disease-resistant pumpkin called ‘Baby Pam’. A fellow market farmer friend and seed saver named Holly Dumont of central California had requested seed of both populations. Over the next two seasons, she interbred both and selected her favorites. It was from this grex that Chris then spent three more seasons intensively improving the pumpkin for a number of desirable traits.
The result is ‘Emerald Naked Seeded’ — a new variety that out-yields most on the market, including ‘Styrian Hulless’ and ‘Lady Godiva’. Besides selecting plants that have a high yield of hulless seed pumpkins, selection has been made for fruits that have the highest seed to fruit weight ratio, plump seeds, and in which the seeds are easy to harvest from the cavity. Fruits with an attractive visual appearance have been preferred so that the grower knows when their fruits are mature. Finally, since sprouting in storage is a known problem with naked seeded pumpkin cultivars, efforts have been made to cull this trait by storing stock fruit for at least two months. This population still has a mix of bush and vine types.
Our seed comes directly from the breeder himself, Chris Homanics of Head, Hands, Heart Nursery and Seed in Washington state.
GROWING TIPS: Due to the hulless nature of the seeds, naked-seeded varieties are naturally more susceptible to rot, especially in cooler more northerly climates. Therefore, It is best to either direct-sow only when the soil temperature is at least 70F or to sow these seeds for later transplant in 50 count trays. Transplant after the danger of frost has passed at first true leaf. Plant on 5 ft centers.