In south-eastern Austria, in the area called “Styria” (or “Steiermark” in German), farmers have developed a variety of pumpkin whose seeds contain a sweet, nutty tasting oil known as “Kürbiskernöl.” The pumpkins don’t grow much larger than 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Each pumpkin will have about 3 oz (75g) of seeds; it takes about 5 ½ pounds (2.5 kg) of seeds (or 33 pumpkins) to make a 1 litre bottle of the oil.
The seeds are extracted from the pumpkins right in the fields. The pumpkins are just tossed back onto the fields for fertilizer. The seeds are scrubbed to get any clinging pulp off, then hot-air roasted at around 140 F (60 C) and pressed to extract the oil. Toasting the seeds first both “loosens” up the oil and develops its flavour. Cold pressing has been tried but the resultant oil is pretty flavourless.
The very deep, spinach-green colour of the oil is not instantly appealing: on first seeing it, some people think of car engine oil. You need to be careful handling the oil because it stains cloth easily.
The oil is used as a “finishing” oil (for table or salad use) rather than as a cooking oil because it is very expensive, has a strong flavour, and smokes at very low temperatures.
The oil is so popular in Austria that only about 20% of it is ever exported.
At least one oil producer, Philippe Vigean, is making the oil in France (as of 2005.) It is also being produced in north-eastern Slovenia.
The oil received PDO protection under the name of “Steierisches Kürbiskernöl” on 2 July 1996.
It is used a lot with salads. In a strong-tasting dressing, it mixes well with cider vinegar at ration of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. The oil can be added at the last minute to cooked dishes such as stews and soups. It is nice with any pumpkin dishes, or drizzled over hearty squash or legume soups. The locals in Styria like it with scrambled eggs. Do not heat the oil, however, beyond adding it to a completed dish.
Rich in many vitamins and essential fatty acids.
“[An] Oil Pumpkin Conference was held in Austria and organised by Austrians because that country or more specifically the Styria region regards itself as the traditional home of pumpkin seed oil production. Lichtenecker and Lelley (2000, p. 86) reported that ‘extracting oil from pumpkin seed is a century-old tradition centred in Styria, in the south-eastern part of Austria’. They went on to say, that although the tradition was originally based on physically removing the tough seed hull from the seed prior to oil production, since late in the nineteen century hull-less or naked seeds have been the mainstay of the Styrian industry.” — G.G. Baxter, K. Murphy and A. Paech. The Potential to Produce Pumpkin Seed for Processing in North East Victoria. Government of Australia, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. RIRDC Publication No. 11/145. February 2012. [Ed: no further conference has been held since, as of 2012.]
Also referred to as “Pumpkin Seed Oil”.
Burgmans, John. Oil Seed Pumpkins – A New Experience for New Zealand. In: Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 23:110-111 (article 36) 2000. Future Resources, 633a Queen Street, Levin, New Zealand.
F. Bavec, S. Grobelnik Mlakar, Č. Rozman, M. Bavec. Oil Pumpkins: Niche for Organic Producers. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.) Issues in new crops and new uses. Alexandria, VA: ASHS Press. 2007.