Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Rolands Abermanis, owner of Freeland business SPUNKS, loads a box of pumpkin seeds for delivery. The business is hoping to move production to Whidbey soon.

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record Rolands Abermanis, owner of Freeland business SPUNKS, loads a box of pumpkin seeds for delivery. The business is hoping to move production to Whidbey soon.

Sowing success

Pumpkin seeds with a kick

A business that started out as a seed of an idea has been sprouting its way to Whidbey a little more each year.

Like the pumpkin seeds that are involved in the snack company, the idea for SPUNKS has slowly been roasting over the past decade.

Nearly 25 years ago, when Rolands Abermanis lived in New Orleans, he bought a pound of raw pumpkin seeds on a whim. He stirred them with spices and baked them into what became a popular snack at parties.

The “seasoned, somewhat spicy” pumpkin seeds became known as SPUNKS.

The business officially kicked off after Abermanis and his wife, Jennifer, had made the move to Whidbey.

“What started out as a hobby is now like a full-grown business, and growing little by little,” Abermanis said.

Flavors of the pepitas range from the not-spicy, which includes seeds with no seasoning or with sea salt, to the spicy, which includes Sriracha and two different levels of cajun seasoning.

Jennifer joked that the milder of the two cajun flavors has been developed for the “Northwest palate.”

“Our product is seasoned so that it’s just enough and enticing, it leaves you wanting more and it’s not overpowering in any of the spices,” Abermanis said.

The roasted seeds have gained a faithful following over the years. Even Karolyn Grimes, who played the little girl Zuzu in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is a fan.

When most people think of pumpkin seeds, Abermanis said, they think of the flat white seeds in large pumpkins.

The seeds he roasts are smaller and hull-less, puffing up a little and making for a nice crunch. They come from a farm in Eugene, Oregon.

The pepitas are roasted in 150-pound batches, with no added oils.

The seeds are organic, keto-friendly and contain phytosterols, which are thought to help lower cholesterol. They also contain essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6.

The snacks also present a healthier option for kids to snack on. The Seattle Children’s Hospital, where Jennifer used to work, carries SPUNKS in its cafeteria.

Production takes place at a facility in Bothell, where only pumpkin seeds are roasted. Abermanis is hoping to move the roasting process to Freeland, where he lives and where the office and warehouse for SPUNKS are currently located.

He has also been working to get the product in Whidbey stores, including Payless Foods, the Goose Grocer and 3 Sisters Market. In addition, he and Jennifer are regular vendors at the Bayview Farmers Market. On the mainland, SPUNKS can be found at QFC and Bartell Drugs.

Abermanis welcomes the incorporation of customer recipes. He is currently re-working the SPUNKS website to include a tab to share recipe submissions.

“There’s a recipe out there with mac and cheese and SPUNKS,” he said with a laugh.

Recently, Jennifer has been testing out recipes involving the seeds. These include “Sriracha” SPUNKS encrusted fish, and a yeast-free bread using the plain “Naked” SPUNKS. The latter recipe was provided to her by a Latvian relative of Abermanis’.

And as always, Abermanis is working on developing some new flavors. The latest creation he has been having people try is dill pickle, although he would also like to make a popcorn flavor.

• For more information on SPUNKS, visit spunkstore.com.

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
SPUNKS currently come in six flavors, although more are currently being developed.

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record SPUNKS currently come in six flavors, although more are currently being developed.

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