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Healing Kitchen

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil
A culinary specialty of Styria (the south central region of Austria that also produced Arnold Schwarzenegger), Austrian pumpkin seed oil looks like old motor oil (it's black), but tastes like heaven. It has a dark, richy, toasty flavor that is unlike any other oil we've tasted. The oil is made from a special type of pumpkin that is actually cultivated only for its seeds, and not the vegetable itself (which is usually cut up and returned to the fields as compost). Similar to Champagne, pumpkin seed oil from Styria is stamped with a seal indicating origin of each bottle that can trace the oil to the specific field where the pumpkins that generated the oil were grown and where it was then pressed and bottled.

Called "green gold," Austrian pumpkin seed oil is brimming with nutritional value, including zinc, niacin, amino acids, iron, protein, folate, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, vitamin E, carotenoids, phytosterols, essential fatty acids, and selenium. The health benefits of pumpkin seed oil have been respected and valued for hundreds of years. So valued was this special oil, that a legal edict was declared in March, 1773, by the Austrian Royal Court to the Styrian Provincial Government stipulating that: "This healthy Oil is unique and much too precious for using it in tasty meals and therefore should rather be used as a medicine". So it shall not be used as a culinary delicacy anymore but shall be collected and distributed only by pharmacies."

Not only is this oil historically respected, but modern science has also paid attention to it, in particular to its potential to treat enlargement of the prostate gland. Researchers believe that the phytosterols in pumpkin seed oil help to reduce hormonally-induced damage to prostate cells. In parts of Europe, pumpkin seed oil is also being studied for its ability to protect against weakness of the bladder and urinary tract infections. The linoleic acid (an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid) in pumpkin seed oil may help to prevent hardening of the arteries and may also reduce LDL (the "bad" cholesterol levels).

Luckily for cooks everywhere, pumpkin seed oil is no longer restricted to pharmacies. The oil can be used in salad dressings: Try it the way the Austrians like it, tossed with strips of cooked beef and large beans, such as favas. We also used it to flavor a hummus, but you could use it in other bean spreads or dips. You can also stir it into hot dishes at the last minute (like other roasted oils, it breaks down and loses flavor if you heat it). The oil should be stored in the refrigerator to keep it from going rancid.

You can get 1/4 liter bottle for $16.99 (plus shipping and handling) from Austria's Finest Naturally at 1-800-630-5766.

Author: the Healing Kitchen staff
Date Published: 06/05/2000
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