You’ve probably read, on one prepper website or another, quite a few articles about gardening and different plants that you can grow. Often the emphasis is on particular healthy aspects of certain plants: high content of certain minerals, or of one vitamin or another. Fine. That’s useful info. But if you are growing food for survival, I consider that your main focus should be on the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Many of the more commonly-grown garden plants — lettuce, tomato, peppers, cucumber — are healthy and good for salads. But they contain little in the way of protein, fat, and carbs. These three macronutrients are essential for survival. That is why my “survival gardening” series of posts continues to focus on plants that produce high quantities of macronutrients.
Pumpkin is one of the top crops for the production of macronutrients. Pumpkin seeds are high in dietary fat and high in protein. Pumpkin seeds are 49% fat and 30% protein, according to the USDA national nutrient database. There is also a fair amount of carbs in the pumpkin flesh.
By the way, this USDA database is very useful when you are planning which foods to store, or to grow. It has detailed information on many thousands of different foods. You can also download a free program to run on your computer, in case internet access is intermittent or unavailable.
The fat in pumpkin seeds is 42% omega-6 fatty acid (one of two essential dietary fats), but unfortunately only 0.5% omega-3 fatty acid (the other essential fat). In other words, 49% of the seed is fat, and 42.5% of that 49% are essential fatty acids. Omega-6 and omega-3 fats are essential nutrients. Other fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, are healthy but non-essential. Fat is also a good source of food energy, due to its high caloric density.
The protein in pumpkin seeds is high quality — a complete protein. Pumpkin seeds contain all essential amino acids in ideal or better proportions. See the analysis of pumpkin seed essential amino acids at BitterPoison.com. To read the analysis, look at the “Score” column. A score of 1.00 means that the food provides 100% of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended amount of that essential amino acid as a percent of total protein. (Any score in the 80 or 90th percentile is less than ideal, but still sufficient for good health.)
If you are growing pumpkin for the seeds, you probably are better off with a hulless variety.
Hulless pumpkin cultivars in order of seed size:
1. Kakai – large thick seeds; green papery covering, with ivory interior bursting out.
2. Styrian – medium-large seeds; dark green covering, firmly attached.
3. Prostate Squash – medium-large seeds; light green covering.
4. Naked Seeded Squash – medium seeds; light to darker green covering; light rim.
5. Lady Godiva – medium-small seeds; medium green.
6. Little Greenseed – small seeds; medium to dark green.
7. Triple Treat – small seeds; not entirely hulless; pronounced rim.
8. Snack Jack – small seeds; not entirely hulless (worse than Triple Treat); pronounced rim.
These cultivars are available in various online sources. I get many of my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. However, the seeds are available to members only. The yearly catalog comes out in Jan. or Feb., and many sellers of seeds run out or simply do not offer their seeds beyond May or June. However, they also have an online store available to non-members, but with far fewer varieties of seed.
If you would like to grow pumpkin seeds for a small home oil press, such as the Piteba press, you don’t need the hulless cultivars. The press accepts the whole seed and still presses out the oil. This allows you a greater latitude in choosing which pumpkin variety to grow.
Pumpkins take 90 to 120 days to reach maturity. They need plenty of sun, and they do not tolerate continual damp/wet weather very well. This article recommends germinating the seeds, growing them in containers, and then transplanting them to the field for highest yields. Some varieties can produce an ounce or two of seed per kg of fruit.
The seeds can be dried and stored; they will keep well long-term. So a sizeable crop of pumpkin can provide a source of protein and fat for many months.