ONTARIO, Ore. (AP) — Eastern Oregon and western Idaho already produce many of the nation’s decorative pumpkins. Now an economic development official is exploring whether the area could support production of pumpkin seeds for healthy snack foods.
At least one food company is seeking a U.S. producer of pumpkin seeds, said Kit Kamo, director of the Snake River Economic Development Alliance. American retailers prefer to buy domestic foods, but most pumpkin seeds in snack foods come from China, she said.
Kamo says there are local farmers interested in growing the seeds, and a researcher from Oregon State University is developing a cost estimate for producing and handling them. The findings will help determine whether seed pumpkins — which are distinct from decorative pumpkins and those grown for pumpkin pie — would be economically viable in Malheur County, Oregon and southwest Idaho.
“We feel there is a potential,” she told The Argus Observer of Ontario, Oregon.
Kamo said she met with officials from Kathie’s Kitchen, which produces the SuperSeedz brand of seasoned or flavored pumpkin seeds.
The seeds are harvested wet and will need to be washed and dried so they can be stored, she said. The seeds can be substituted in some applications for soy products, for people who are allergic to soy.
Pumpkin seeds aren’t the only potential new crop for the Western Treasure Valley. Most sunflower seeds used in snacks are also grown in China and may present another opportunity for farmers in the Treasure Valley, Kamo said.