The Charm of Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil

More
pumpkinseeds.jpg

Photo by Diego Cupolo/Flickr CC


It's not easy to find pumpkin seed oil in the States. But in tiny Jennersdorf, Austria, it's so common that local grocery stores don't even carry it. Instead, during irregular afternoon hours, one heads to a barn a few blocks from the town center -- already at the edge of this 4,000-person village -- where an old man and his son run an antiquated oil press. For about 10 euros a liter, they'll fill a glass bottle with freshly pressed oil, slap a sticker on it, and send you on your way.

Pumpkin seed oil isn't quite so obscure, but it's still more obscure than it deserves to be.

I lived in Jennersdorf for a year after college, teaching English at the local Gymnasium. Southeastern Austria -- Jennersdorf is about three miles from the Hungarian border, and about 10 from Croatia -- is a strange, still largely isolated place, one of those corners of Europe where the procession of rail, telephone, television, and Internet connections has yet to erode local traditions. A nearby sausage factory once produced the world's longest wurst, and, in a ceremony too complex to explain in a blog post, I once saw a man married, in a public square, to a tree.

In Jennersdorf, local foods are still quite literally local foods: There are wine varieties, like the rose-tinted uhudler, rarely found outside the region. Pumpkin seed oil isn't quite so obscure, but it's still more obscure than it deserves to be. Its obscurity is party due to its utility, or lack thereof: Unlike other seed oils, you don't cook with it -- heat destroys its delicate fatty-acid content -- and its robust flavor often makes it hard to use in recipes. Nor does it keep very well; about six months after opening, it starts to turn rancid.

But as a dressing for salad or vegetables, the dark-green oil is sublime. It has a strong but balanced nuttiness, and despite its slick texture, the flavor is not at all oily. My favorite is to put it on thoroughly boiled potatoes or fresh tomatoes. Some people put it on vanilla ice cream or mix it with yogurt. For a dressing, use it alone, or combine it with a few teaspoons of honey, olive oil, or apple cider vinegar.

I've never seen pumpkin seed oil for sale in the States, but there are a few domestic producers. And if you happen to be in Germany, seek out a dallmayr shop; this Bavarian fine-foods store carries a lot of Austrian specialties, including pumpkin seed oil (about $10 for a quarter liter). There's a well-stocked outlet of the gourmet department store Dallmayr in the Munich airport as well.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Clay Risen is an editor at The New York Times, and is the author of A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination. He has written for The New Republic, Smithsonian, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

From This Author

Just In