When purchasing organic vegetables from the grocery store, try saving seeds from your favorite winter squash varieties for next year’s harvest.
Fall is the time of year when the winter squash varieties come into their own. Delicata, Butternut, Hubbard, Acorn, and Spaghetti squash all make a terrific addition to your nightly soup and winter storage pantry.
Fewer people grow winter squash than summer squash, which is a shame because they are rich in vitamins and have a fuller taste than summer squash. For those that like to produce their own food, they also keep a long time in storage. Once you open them up for cooking, take the time to save seeds for the next planting. You’ll have fresh squash return every year.
Note: While any squash seed can be saved, you have the best luck using organic fruit. This will ensure that the seeds are not hybrid and will come back true to the parent plant.
What is an open-pollinated variety? An open-pollinated variety is produced using the traditional method of crossing and then selection of offspring in several generations. After a few years (usually after 5 – 6 generations) of systematic selection the variety becomes stable and the characteristics hardly ever segregate out again. This means that all the offspring are virtually the same, which is why the term ‘open-pollinated’ is used.
So plants that come from the seeds of open-pollinated varieties with virtually the same characteristics as the variety purchased. [source]
How to save winter squash seed
1. Halve the fruit and remove the seed pulp. Choose a fully ripe specimen that has thick skin and is in good shape.
2. Squeeze the pulp, including the seeds, into a glass jar or plastic container. I used a canning jar for my seeds.
3. Add enough water to cover the seeds and pulp and cap the jar tightly. Shake well, allowing the pulp to break up.
4. Set the jar on the counter and let the mixture ferment several days at room temperature, shaking occasionally. Don’t forget to loosen the cap to allow air to escape during the fermenting process and tighten it again before shaking (experience speaking!). Just to warn you, this mixture will smell very bad.
After a few days, you’ll see that some of the seeds float and some of them sink. This is good. The seeds that are viable for planting will settle out to the bottom of the jar and the seeds that did not mature properly will float at the top of the water.
5. After 4 days, spoon out the pulp and seeds that are floating on the top (these are the non-viable seeds)
6. Pour the remaining seeds into a small strainer and rinse them well with cool water. Spread these good, viable seeds in a single layer on a paper towel to dry.
Save Winter Squash Seed
Store your dry winter squash seed in a paper envelope in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant in late spring. This technique works well for saving any seed that is surrounded by a fleshy pulp – melons, pumpkins, cucumber, tomato, and squash.
If are not able to plant the seeds in the next year or two, you may be unsure that the seeds are going to take. It’s frustrating to put effort into planting seeds that don’t sprout. Use one of these 3 reliable seed germination tests to make sure they will sprout.