close detail of roasted pumpkin seeds
(Image credit: Laurie Ambrose / Getty Images)

I don’t collect seeds often in the garden, but I do enjoy eating them. As a vegetarian, they are a great source of nutrition, including protein. Everyone should add these little packets of nutrients and flavor to their diets. Here are my favorites.

Pumpkin Seeds

Hands down, my favorite seed in the kitchen is the humble pumpkin seed. My first encounter with them was as a kid when we carved pumpkins for Halloween. We would pull out the goo, separate out and rinse the seeds, and then my mom would roast them. They lasted as snacks for a week or so.

Now, when I get my pie pumpkins from my local farm share, I always save the seeds for roasting. It’s an easy snack to make. All you need to do is rinse and dry the seeds, mix them up with some oil or melted butter and whatever seasonings you like, and cook them in the oven at about 300 degrees F. (150 C.). Keep an eye on the seeds, mix a few times as they cook, and they’re done when they are golden brown.

Out of season, I get pumpkin seeds from the store. They don’t taste the same because they have been shelled, but they carry the same nutrition: fiber, protein, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, iron, zinc, copper, and vitamin K. I add them to salads, sprinkle them on soup, and eat them with nuts as a snack.

Chia Seeds

These little powerhouses of nutrition also first came to my attention during my childhood. We never had one, but I remember well the ads for chia pets. What I know about those unusual toys now is that they worked because of the high fiber content in chia seeds.

The chia pet relied on the ability of the seeds to turn to a thick gel when added to water. You could then spread the gel over the chia pet allowing it to sprout all over the ceramic animal.

They don’t taste like much, but just one serving of chia seeds has ten grams of fiber, eight grams of healthy fats, and five grams of protein. I add them to cereal and oatmeal. If you try this, remember to add extra liquid because they will soak up a lot.

Sunflower Seeds

One type of seed I have saved, although not for myself, is sunflower seeds. I grew sunflowers at a previous home and saved the seed heads at the end of the season to feed birds and squirrels over the winter.

In the kitchen, my favorite way to eat sunflower seeds is in butter form. It’s a great alternative to peanut butter with a significant amount of protein plus healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, copper, manganese, and selenium, just to name a few nutrients.

Again, there is a connection to childhood here. Although I don’t eat them this way often as an adult, as a kid I loved the bags of salty, in-the-shell sunflower seeds. I think my parents liked them because they kept us entertained for a while. I would suck the salt out of the shell, break it open to eat the seed, and spit out the shell fragments.

Sesame Seeds

For flavor, there is no better seed, in my opinion, than the little sesame. Toasted sesame seeds have a savory, delicious flavor that goes well in so many types of food. I have made sesame cookies, but I also sprinkle these tasty little seeds on stir fries and baked tofu.

Sesame products are staples in my kitchen. Tahini is like peanut butter made with sesame seeds that makes a great base for salad dressings and hummus. Sesame oil has a deep rich flavor. Just a teaspoon in a savory dish goes a long way.

Sesame seeds don’t have quite as much impressive nutrition as my other favorite seeds, but they are also low in calories, so I use them liberally.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.