Pumpkins have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I’m a Brit, so I only know about courgette/zuccini and vegetable marrow, which is what happens when you fail to pick a zuccini in time. But as I’ve finally persuaded my son that butternut squash is edible, I’ve been experimenting this year with various pumpkins, or squash, or whatever they are called.
We grew some spaghetti squash and patty pans, which I believe are Cucurbita pepo, some butternuts, which are Cucurbita moschata, and some green striped cushaw, which are Cucurbita argyosperma, previously called Cucurbita mixta. I understand that normally the different species will not cross, but one exception is that moschata might pollinate argyosperma. This would mean that our spaghetti squash and patty pans, which are both pepos would probably cross breed so it wouldn’t be worth saving seed, our butternuts should be safe to save seed from, and there was a chance that our green striped cushaw would have seed that was crossed with butternut.
Our plants all got mixed up a bit, not helped by the usual problem that whenever we buy seed half the plants seem to be cross breeds and produce fruit nothing like they are supposed to. So when my other half was hand pollinating in the mornings, we were never really sure what was being crossed with what, but it didn’t really matter so long as we got fruit.
Then we started eating the things. The pepos all seem to contain young but fertile seed. The butternuts, (moschatas) aren’t really ripe yet, but we’ve been eating some as summer squash and they seem to have young seed in. We ate a few young cushaws (argyospermas), which according to what I’ve been reading might have been pollinated by our butternuts (moschatas) and they had a small area of very undeveloped seed. Then I tried a more mature cushaw. The flavour was much improved and I was encouraged by the way it seemed more tolerant of our rising temperatures. But there was no seed in it. None. Nada. Zilch. It made great eating, as there was nothing whatsoever to cut away. But what on earth has happened to give me a lovely great cushaw with no seed? Can argyospermas grow without being pollinated, like bananas and pineapples and the sort of cucumbers they grow in greenhouses in the UK? Or was it pollinated by a moschata which triggered the growth of the fruit but didn’t manage to produce seed? Or what?
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
posted 8 years ago
The entire Cucurbit family present challenges to seed savers. For maximum seed production/vitality, you should only save seed from fully mature fruits (which is often beyond their edible stage). After harvesting fully mature fruit, allow the fruit to sit for 3 full weeks (the seed continues store energy which will be used during germination and early development) before removing the seeds for saving.
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