Tag Archives: squash seeds

Seed Saving for Beginners

Saving seed and heirloom varieties is extremely important work, whether on a large scale like at Southern Exposure or a smaller scale like a family’s backyard garden. Saving seed helps to preserve genetic diversity, provide people with secure food sources, and connect people to the earth and their local community.

Unfortunately saving seeds isn’t as simple as harvesting and cleaning your seeds. First you need to ensure you have the right kind of plants to start with.

Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid

In order to save seed that will “breed true” or have the same characteristics as its parents you need to start with open pollinated or heirloom seeds or plants. All heirlooms are open pollinated but not all open pollinated plants are heirlooms.

Open Pollinated

Open pollinated simply means that a variety has been bred and then maintained until it was genetically stable. This means that if you save seed from an open pollinated individual that seed will grow plants with the same characteristics as its parent plants.

Heirlooms

Heirlooms are just open pollinated varieties that have been passed down for many generations. While there are a few definitions, at SESE we describe heirlooms as varieties dating from before 1940. Unlike modern varieties that have been developed for use with modern industrial agriculture and our global food system these varieites were grown, saved, and cherished by small farmers and gardeners.

Hybrids

Hybrids on the other hand are not genetically stable. They are the seed from two seperate varieites being crossed. While their first generation traits are predictable they would not be if you were to again save seed. The second generation seed can have characteristics from one or both of the parents or entirely new characteristics altogether.

Hyrbrids are not GMO or inherently bad. In fact many people grow them for their “hybrid vigor” which can make them grow faster than their open pollinated counter parts.

Choosing a Variety

Obviously you’ll want to choose a variety you love and care about. Maybe you fell in love with an heirlooms story or your family just can’t eat enough of your a certain variety. Whatever the case, it’s much easier to stay motivated throughout the season and proccess if you’re really invested.

If you’re a first time seed saver you may also want to consider choosing from a few easy vegetables. Squash, cucumbers, beans, peas, tomatoes, and peppers are all great choices for beginners.

Planting

If you want to grow plants to save seed there’s a couple things you need to consider. First many plants require other plants of the same variety to pollinate with and produce viable seed. Also for this reason seperate varieties should be kept a certain distance apart to avoid cross pollination. For more about how to plan a seed saving garden check out this post:

Garden Planning for Seed Saving

Selection

Even if you don’t have longterm goals for changing or creating a new variety selecting which seed to save is still important. You want to save seeds from healthy and productive plants that have desirable traits.

Harvesting the Seed

Tomatoes

Old German Tomato

To save seed from tomatoes you should harvest them when they’re fully ripe. Then the flesh can be seperated from the seeds and gel that surrounds them. The gel and seeds should be placed in a glass container with a bit of water and lightly covered. This mixture should be stirred twice a day unil the seeds sink to the bottom. The liquid can then be poured off and the seeds rinsed and spread on a towel to dry.

Peppers

Cayenne, Long Red Hot Pepper

Peppers are much easier to save seed from than tomatoes because their seeds lack that gelatinous coating. Wait until the pepper is over ripe, it should begin to wrinkle, and then harvest the seeds and spread them out to dry.

Cucumbers

Mexican Sour Gherkin (Mouse Melon, Sandita)

A ripe cucumber for eating is not the same as a ripe cucumber for seed saving. Cucumbers you wish to save seed form should be allowed to ripen on the vine until they’re yellow or brown in color. Then they need to cure for an additional two weeks or until mold begins to appear. Then the seeds can be scooped out and fermented in a jar just like tomato seeds.

Peas & Beans

Creel Crowder Southern Pea (Cowpea)

Harvest your peas and beans when the pods have turned brown. Then dry them in a single layer for 1-2 weeks until they’re crisp and dry enough that you can here the seeds rattle in the pods. They can be threshed individually or stomped or beaten in a pillow case to remove the pods and then winnowed.

Squash

Candy Roaster Melon Winter Squash

Winter squash, summer squash, and pumpkins are all harvested in the same method. Wait until the fruit is hard and large to harvest. Then cure for 1 month at room temperature before removing the seeds. Wash seeds thoroughly and lay out in a single layer to dry for 3 weeks.

Storage

All seeds should be stored in air tight containers in a cool dry place. Some people choose to add a small amount of silica desiccant in with their seeds to absorb moisture. It’s also important to note that different types of seeds have different lifespans.

 

Saving seed really isn’t difficult. It’s a great way to connect with land and a bit of history. Start saving seeds this season or making a plan for next year’s garden! For more information check our Seed Saving Guides in our Growing Guides Library.

Squash Souffle, 2 styles

Have you ever wondered what to do with winter squash that still haven’t gotten completely ripe when frost hits?  Seed grower and heirloom advocate Rodger Winn told us about a family recipe for squash souffle while we visited his farm one summer.Jul2015 (811) making squash souffle from int stage Mrs Amer prcsd

It starts with intermediate-maturity squash.Jul2015 (806) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs A prcsd

Most squash recipes call for either winter squash, which are harvested at full seed maturity, or summer squash, which are harvested when the seeds are just beginning to develop.  Most squash varieties that are bred for use as summer squash, if allowed to get to the stage of seed maturity, will be unappetizing.  However, most squash that are bred to be winter squash, if you harvest them when the seeds are just beginning to mature, are a wonderful substitute for regular summer squash.  They’re also quite tasty in-between.

When your squash plants are on their last leg and many of the leaves have died, it’s not hard to find a squash that’s still immature; they’re just easy to see. And, when your first fall frost is around the corner and you’re doing your annual winter squash harvest, you’re bound to find a few immature fruits along with the mature ones. If the peel is tough,  you’ll need to peel them. If the seeds are tough, you’ll need to scoop them out.  (The seeds are likely to be tough unless the squash is just barely past the summer squash stage, but, depending on the variety, the skin might remain tender much longer.)

Irena’s Squash Souffle

I really liked the sound of Rodger’s recipe, but I didn’t remember the details, and I often don’t have the patience to measure ingredients.  Here’s how I made a squash souffle that my housemates and I really enjoyed.

Jul2015 (808) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs A prcsdJul2015 (810) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs a prcsdFirst, I cut an intermediate-stage Mrs. Amerson’s squash into big chunks. Mrs. Amerson’s is a moschata type, and I’m pretty confident that other squash in the moschata species, such as Seminole and Butternut, would produce very similar results.

I removed the seeds and the parts of the peel that were tough.  I sliced the squash thinly.  It wouldn’t all fit in one frying pan, so I put it in two. Those frying pans mostly gets used for savory dishes, but I didn’t worry about how their seasoning would affect this dish.

I let the squash cook a bit, stirring occasionally, while I beat about 10 eggs, then mixed them with about 5 cups of milk and about 2 cups of evaporated cane juice (i.e., sugar, but not as processed as most white or brown sugars).  I poured the mixture over the squash, sprinkled it with nutmeg, covered it, and cooked on low heat until the surface was solid.Jul2015 (812) making squash souffle from int stage Mrs Amer prcsd

I enjoy strong flavors, so the next morning as I was enjoying my squash souffle for the second time, I picked some Anise-Hyssop and Mexican Mint Marigold from the garden to eat with it.Oct2016 (296) squash souffle prcsd

Then, I decided to write this post, so I asked Rodger for the family recipe.  If you want to cook from a recipe, this is probably the one to use.

For Rodger’s South Carolina family, this is a Thanksgiving recipe.  They tend to get their first frost in early November.  Intermediate-maturity squash will keep just fine for a couple of weeks, and sometimes much longer, but won’t keep until spring.

Winn Family Squash Souffle

We use pumpkins that are almost mature but still have a green rind.  If they are too immature the pie will be mushy. Cut the squash lengthwise in 1 in strips and peel. Then slice very thin, about 1/8 in. Layer the slices in a pre baked pie crust till filled. For the custard use 1 or 1 1/2 cups white sugar or unrefined sugar, 2 cups milk, a tsp. of vanilla extract, and 3 eggs. Mix well. This is enough custard for two shallow pies, or one deep dish with a little left over. Then bake at 375 degrees until set (about 45min to 1hr). Enjoy.