Faced with a pile of pulpy seeds dug out of a pumpkin in preparation for carving, many Halloween celebrants opt to rinse them and roast them in the oven.
Technically, those seeds qualify as pepitas, the Spanish word for seeds extracted from a squash. But they're far from a shining example of the form, since the pumpkins destined to become jack-o'-lanterns aren't cultivated for flavorful seeds. Just as a Halloween pumpkin's flesh doesn't belong in a pie, its seeds don't belong in a salad.
Styrian pumpkins are one popular variety of pumpkins grown for pepita purposes, but many cultivars yield light green seeds without the white hulls familiar from carving sessions. Rich in fiber, iron and protein, pepitas show up in granola and atop cakes. When making pesto, they're a useful substitute for pine nuts, which are gradually falling out of favor with eaters who fear pine mouth (an unshakeable bitter or metallic taste that can develop as a result of eating pine nuts.)
Pepitas are ubiquitous in Mexico, where the seeds figure into salsas, drinks, moles and soups. They're also considered a snack and a garnish, and are the base of a seasoning paste unique to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Basico (Baby octopus confit with marinated mushrooms, charred scallions, pepitas, cured tomato and lime crema, $11)
Just about every corner store sells roasted pumpkin seeds, but El Centro Americano Grocery in Ladson is a sure source, and you can stay for a pupusa lunch.
Because of its pumpkin connection, pepitas are more prevalent on fall menus: The Daily has served a roasted squash salad with pepitas and The Atlantic Room has baked them into a streusel for its pumpkin cake donuts. Right now, pepitas appear in the celery root mousseline accompanying the scallops at Circa 1886.