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Summer Squash Landrace

 
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Location: Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee
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So after reading quite a bit about Joseph Lofthouse's gardening practices I've decided that I'm going to try my hand at landrace gardening.  After some thought the most obvious species for me to start with was summer squash, since it is among my favorite plants to grow and eat. There seem to be a few different people growing landrace winter squash but I can't find much info on summer squash.  As far as I can tell it should work just as well as any other landrace. I'm going to try it and see how it goes regardless, but would be curious to know if anybody on these forums has any experience with the subject, positive or negative.
 
gardener
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I've been warned that squash, in general, can revert back to its wild form pretty quickly. I'm really not sure if it's true or not, it's just what I've heard. I recommend you look into the books written by Carol Deppe, if you haven't already. She writes a lot about the subject of seed saving and its finer points even at the home level.
 
Seth Rogers
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Yeah, I've heard the same thing, but there are plenty examples on this site and elsewhere of successful winter squash landraces. Just not many of summer squash. I've read Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener, but will add her book on plant breeding to my reading list.

I'm thinking that the offspring of two good summer squash should mostly be good summer squash, as long as I select against traits that make the plants inedible or unproductive in the future, those traits shouldn't just develop in the first few generations. My thinking may be wrong on this, but I haven't seen examples of squash reverting to a wild form without wild pollen being introduced somewhere.

Thanks for the reply and advice.
 
steward
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Any squash species can be eaten as a summer squash. However, with that said, it is typically C pepo that are called summer squash. The zucchini are one sub-species, patty-pan and crookneck are a different sub-species. In my summer squash landraces, I have chosen to keep the sub-species separate, rather than combining them together. So I grow a zucchini landrace in one field, and a crookneck landrace in a different field. I grow the pepo winter squash in a separate field (jack-o-lantern, delicata, acorn, spaghetti). My reasoning for this strategy, is that I adore the taste, color, and shape of yellow crookneck and want to keep them true to type; and zucchini are readily recognized and purchased at my farmer's market -- if the skin color changes, but not if the shape changes. Zucchini sell well if they are white, yellow, green, tan, or stripped, but not if they are football shaped.

I have never found a squash plant that spontaneously reverted to wild types. Domestication happened many millennia before I was born. The domestic traits are very stable.

I am currently working on dual-purpose pepo squash: Selecting for traits that are great as a summer squash, and great as a winter squash later on.



 
Seth Rogers
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Thanks for the reply Joseph. I guess I should have been more specific. You're right, I was referring to the C pepo summer squashes. I am intending to have crosses between the two different sub-species in the landrace as well as introducing as many different varieties as I can. Since I don't plan to sell them I'm not as concerned about the shape of the fruit as I am the taste. But if I understand correctly, and I might not, the third generation and after will tend to take after one or the other of the grandparents instead of being in between the two.

So here's another question. Have you seen any examples of crosses between the sub-species? And if so, what were they like?

Edited for clarity.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I have seen inter-subspecies crosses. They look intermediate between the parents. For example, a cross between crookneck and zucchini looks like a large crookneck with an extra fat neck, or like a smallish zucchini with a somewhat restricted neck. Still perfectly edible as a summer squash.

Landraces have more complicated genetics than simple Mendelian inheritance. For example, when I cross a pink banana squash with a blue Hubbard, the first generation of offspring are football shaped and have orange skin. The next generation, there are some banana shapes, some Hubbard shapes, and lots of football shapes. Perhaps some round fruits will show up. However, the colors are now all jumbled up. There will be pink bananas, green bananas, blue bananas, striped bananas, orange bananas, etc. Also lots of different colors on the Hubbard shaped and the football shaped. If continuously grown as a landrace, the jumbled up shapes and colors will continue indefinitely, and some parental types will continue. I could reselect for any particular color, or any particular shape, or I could let the traits remain variable. I am most interested in flavor, and productivity. I cull very small squash, and very large squash. I want something that my cooks can easily handle, and that fits well into their cookware.

The middle squash is a hybrid: Shown with it's parental varieties.


Later generations:


Edit to add that there are 4 alleles with major effect on color in the original cross. 2 sets of genes. One set affects if color is orange/green. The other set affects if it is pale/intense. So that basically means that there are 9 fruit colors available from a single cross, some of which may only be available in a landrace with mixed genetics, and not in pure strains. And then there are genes for stripes or mottling.
 
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I scattered last years cold compost over a section of garden area this spring, and let whatever seeds sprout.  I got some yellow squash oddities. Some of the plants were very small with very small fruit. At 2" long they were turning that orange overripe color. Another one the fruit was green and large. Like a cross between a zuchini and a crookneck. I have another that i can't figure out. Its a vine. The fruit looks like muskmelon but outside is yellow.



 
Seth Rogers
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Thanks again Joseph. This pretty much confirms what I thought. The project will continue as planned.
I always enjoy seeing pictures of your squash landraces. I'll be sure to post some of my own once I get to the interesting parts.
 
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Joseph (or anybody else who knows) when you say that any squash can be eaten as a summer squash does that mean that they can be treated like zuccini type things before they're fully grown?  I ask because I'm not sure my winter squash will mature before things get wet and rainy this fall.  If I could get some sort of eating out of them it would tickle me pink.  Its the 25th of June and The nursery-bought acorn squash is putting out flower buds but the seeds saved from cool looking mini pumpkins in the grocery store only  have 4 leaves so far.  
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Joseph Lofthouse
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Genevieve: Yes, they can all be eaten as summer squash. The flavors and textures might be different than what you are used to. That's why I add salt, pepper, garlic, onions, and butter to summer squash! To me, it's more about the flavorings, than about the squash.
 
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Please pardon my ignorance, as I am just beginning to learn seed saving...how does one go about selecting for flavor in a summer squash landrace (or I guess cucumbers for that matter) when the seed saving stage does not match the timing of the eating stage?
 
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The plants will give more than one fruit so if you get a nice summer squash (or cucumber) that fitted whatever criteria you were after (earliness, vigor, disease resistance etc) and you eat one and it tastes good, mark the plant and let one of it's fruit mature.
 
Ryan Markley
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Skandi Rogers wrote:The plants will give more than one fruit so if you get a nice summer squash (or cucumber) that fitted whatever criteria you were after (earliness, vigor, disease resistance etc) and you eat one and it tastes good, mark the plant and let one of it's fruit mature.



Thanks for the reply Skandi.  From my understanding, this would work with a non-landrace, because all of the fruits will be the same...but for a landrace, where each fruit is different, how would one guarantee that the flavor doesn't vary from one fruit to another?
 
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On a landrace the fruits of different plants will be different. However, the fruits of the same plant will be the same.

Also Joseph talks in some of his threads about taking off a small piece of skin say on the exact fruit you want to save for seed and taste testing it.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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In addition to the excellent suggestions already made, my grandfather used to tell me that, "The fruit doesn't fall very far from the tree". In this case, the interpretation would be that fruits that taste great as mature squash will also be likely to taste good as immature squash.

I go through my summer squash patch early in the season, and taste the fruits, evaluate their texture, shape, color, size, etc... I yank up any plants with traits that I don't like, or that haven't made fruits yet. Then, I pick all the fruits in the patch. Then, when I harvest fruits for seeds, both the mother, and the pollen donors will be from plants that met my selection criteria. Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents, so the offspring of great tasting parents will tend to taste great.
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Crookneck squash
 
Ryan Markley
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Excellent information.  If cutting a piece of skin from the fruit to taste, will the cut portion "skin" over or heal itself?
 
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