12/01/2014 03:24 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

Whole Plant Eating: Squash Seeds

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We've all been there before -- an evening spent peeling away and finally we have sheets of spiced, cubed squash roasting away in the oven. The kitchen is starting to warm up with the savory smell of garlic and herbs, with a bowl of salad greens just waiting for the timer to go off, and then you see it... the oozy orange pile of squash guts tangled with equally slimy seeds, sitting on the cutting board like a scene from a sci-fi novel.

It's easy to scrape the seeds and pulp directly into the compost bin, but during this traditional season of plenty, there are many ways to reduce food waste at home by putting every inch of your squash to good (and delicious) use! Not only are squash seeds versatile, but they are also packed with nutrients like fiber, protein, Vitamins A & C, potassium, calcium, iron and folate. I've compiled just a few of my favorites below for whole plant squash eating:

  • Roasting squash seeds is all the rage, but have you considered jazzing them up with some fun flavors? Why go for plain salted seeds when you can have smoky chipotle-dusted or fiery wasabi ones? When separating and cleaning your seeds for roasting, don't stress if you can't remove all the stringy squash guts -- they add flavor and texture to the finished product!
  • Gift elegant pumpkin seed brittle and experience a meteoric rise to Favorite Relative status.
  • Make a thick and fragrant pesto: your sandwiches, pasta and vegetables will thank you.
  • On that note, how about a pumpkin seed sauce (use vegetable stock and omit the shrimp for vegetarians).
  • Blend together a roasted almond-pumpkin seed butter and try not to eat it straight from the jar!
  • Do as Emeril Lagasse would do and add a bit of seasonal "BAM!" to, well, everything. Hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) can be used as garnish for soups, salads, desserts, mixed into your trusty granola recipe, and enjoyed at breakfast.
  • If you're not interested in eating your squash seeds, they can just as easily be strung together into a fun and festive necklace or use as an alternative for crafting projects.
  • Feed the birds! Get rid of the surrounding pulp, dry the seeds out, and watch your feathered friends assemble. Large seeds might be daunting for smaller birds, so hull them to be more small bird-friendly.
  • If you have the space, grow a pumpkin patch -- not only are you saving your seeds, but you'll have even more seeds to look forward to in the future!

A simple way to show gratitude for mother nature's seasonal bounty is to adopt a whole plant way to eating food -- you'll benefit from the added nutrition and a little less needless waste will be making its way to landfills. It's also a fun way to get young kids involved in the kitchen and teach them about reducing our carbon footprint! Give seeds a chance, they can plant the way for a lifetime of healthy habits.