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'Lady Godiva' is one variety of hull-less pumpkins.

Grow your own pepitas

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It’s easy to turn edible pumpkin seeds into a tasty snack – you just need the right varieties and these tips from Linda Cockburn.

Pepitas are a staple in our house. They’re delicious lightly toasted, salted and sprinkled on salads, thrown raw into homemade muesli, trail mixes, and in cakes and biscuits. They’re grown from varieties of pumpkins with hull-less seeds; the outer protective coat doesn’t develop, just the inner, green seed. Growing them is easy and it’s not difficult to harvest enough to last a year. Grown up the side of a fence or trellis to reduce the space they take up in smaller gardens, these pumpkins are a great addition to the food grower’s garden.

How to grow

As with any other pumpkin, the hull-less variety are best grown about a metre apart on mounds of deep, rich compost and kept moist. Pumpkins don’t like having their roots disturbed so are best direct sown in the garden. Plant in spring but wait until the soil is warm and the risk of frost has passed.

Sow three seeds in each mound. When the first true leaves appear, choose the strongest to grow and cut the remaining ones off at the base.

Drip irrigation is a good choice for pumpkins, it conserves water and avoids wetting the leaves, which are prone to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.

This year we trained the vines over an arched pathway trellis so they’d take up minimal space and have good air flow. If growing them up a trellis, tie the developing fruits into cloth slings to support the stem, reducing the possibility they’ll break off.

We experimented with planting three in 50cm diameter pots, but despite constant watering they produced less than a third of the crop grown in the ground. It was a good lesson in how much water pumpkin leaves transpire a day.

What to grow

There are three varieties of pepita pumpkins available in Australia: all round, with orange-yellow green stripes:

  • ‘Styrian Hulless’: This is the most common and the largest. It’s an Austrian heirloom that dates back to 1870 and weighs in at 3.5–5kg.
  • ‘Kakai’: This pumpkin was developed from ‘Styrian Hulless’ and weighs in at around 3.5kg.
  • ‘Lady Godiva’: This variety was bred in the US and has a higher number of smaller, ball-shaped fruits per plant but which yield a similar amount of seed to ‘Kakai’.

OG 144 pepita pumpkins_Linda Cockburn

Linda’s full article on growing and processing seeds for pepitas first appeared in our Spring 2023 issue (OG 144). For more organic growing ideas, get the latest issue of the magazine here.

OG 144 cover