Winter squash is a staple for us, so we were greatly disappointed last year when some of our squash crop did not match the catalog description. These resembled extra large zucchini with some of the coloring of Delicata. They had nothing to offer for flavor. The one thing they did very well however, was to last the winter flawlessly. They had grown a very hard shell which had to be chunked up with a shovel to make compost out of them (who can eat bland squash?)
|Butternut squash climbing the |
pole with the pole beans
This year we changed our supplier and did our seed shopping in the *Fedco Seed catalog. This by the way is a great catalog to read on a snowy day in January when gardening is something you can only dream about. They give you plenty to read in this little book- great descriptions and many informative sidebar tidbits.
Back on the subject of squash, according to the catalog there are six different species of them, with three of those commonly available to gardeners. Anyone who saves seeds needs to be aware of these different species. Squash seeds are very easy to dry and keep- and available in handfuls whenever you cut one open for cooking.
|Delicata squash on the stone wall|
However, as Fedco explains, if you plant two varieties within one species, through the process of pollination they can mix with each other. This means you can get some weird looking “things” in your garden that you never expected. So, to save seeds it is important to grow only one of each species. And, even if you’ve taken care to plant only one of a species, squash grown by your neighbors as much as 1500’ feet away can share pollen with yours. Much to look out for! And, apparent from the strange crop we got last year, cross-pollination can even happen to a seed supplier.
Summer squash and pumpkins belong to these same species also. There is actually no such thing as a pumpkin, they are all squash. Here are the three species with some of the common varieties within them.
Curcurbita Pepo: Delicata, Spaghetti Squash, Acorn Squash, Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkin, Zucchini and other summer squash.
Curcurbita Maxima: Hubbard Squash, Buttercup Squash.
Curcurbita Moschata: Butternut Squash, Cheese Pumpkin.
Although seed saving may be risky in regards to next year’s crop, it doesn’t hurt to try it as long as you have the space to also buy seeds and plant your stand-bys. Who knows, you might even invent a new variety! And too, plant at least one variety each year that you haven’t grown before. There are plenty to pick from, and there’s exquiste eating to be had from many of them. -jmm
*Fedco Seeds, P.O. Box 520, Waterville ME 04903-0520 This catalog is full of great info and exquisitely drawn porttaits of plants.