Pumpkin seeds are oval, flat green seeds of the common pumpkin. They are sold raw or hulled, and used in a variety of ways, mostly as a nut would be used. Also known as pepitas.
Pepita (from Mexican Spanish: pepita de calabaza, “little seed of squash”) is a Spanish culinary term for the pumpkin seed, the edible seed of a pumpkin or other cultivar of squash (genus Cucurbita). The seeds are typically rather flat and asymmetrically oval, and light green in color inside a white hull. The word can refer either to the hulled kernel or unhulled whole seed, and most commonly refers to the roasted end product.
Pepitas are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and are also roasted and served as a snack. Marinated and roasted, they are an autumn seasonal snack in the United States, as well as a commercially produced and distributed packaged snack, like sunflower seeds, available year-round. Pumpkin seeds are commercially sold in several ways in the United States: covered in a salt crust, unshelled; plain unshelled; shelled and unflavored; and in speciality gourmet shops, as a nut brittle or other candy. Pepitas are known by their Spanish name (usually shortened), and typically salted and sometimes spiced after roasting (and today also available as a packaged product), in Mexico and other Latin American countries, in the American Southwest, and in speciality and Mexican food stores.
The earliest known evidence of the domestication of Cucurbita dates back 8,000-10,000 years ago, predating the domestication of other crops such as maize and common beans in the region by about 4,000 years. Changes in fruit shape and color indicate intentional breeding of C. pepo occurred by no later than 8,000 years ago. The process to develop the agricultural knowledge of crop domestication took place over 5,000-6,500 years in Mesoamerica. Squash was domesticated first, with maize second and then beans being domesticated, becoming part of the Three Sisters agricultural system.
As an ingredient in mole dishes, they are known in Spanish as pipián. A sauce, known as pipián verdé is a very popular one in Mexican cuisine. A Mexican snack using pepitas in an artisan fashion is referred to as Pepitoría. Lightly roasted, salted, unhulled pumpkin seeds are popular in Greece with the descriptive Italian name, passatempo (“pastime”).
The pressed oil of the roasted seeds of a Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo var. ‘styriaca’ is also used in Central and Eastern Europe as cuisine, such as Pumpkin seed oil.