Saving seeds is something that is catching on more and more, especially when it comes to save squash seeds.
Squash originated in South America, which is the birthplace of many of our staple foods today. There are two main types of squash: Summer and Winter Squash.
Winter squash (pumpkin and butternut squash) has a shell that is a harder skin than that of other types of squash. Summer squash (zucchini and patty pan squash) has a thin skin and is usually harvested immature. It can be eaten whole, either raw or cooked.
When properly stored, squash seeds last a long time, which enabled early European settlers to spread this vegetable all over the world.
- Read More: How to Save Seeds Overview Guide
In this article, I’m going to show you how to save squash seeds, specifically the basics of seed saving the summer squash variety.
For more on saving winter squash seeds and pumpkin seeds, check out the How to Save Pumpkin Seeds article.
Overview of Saving Summer Squash Seeds
The most important thing to remember when saving squash seeds is the possibility of cross-pollination. Squash cross-pollinates easily with other varieties.
This isn’t a problem if you’re just going to eat the fruit, but if you want to save seeds to plant again the following year, you will want to hand-pollinate.
If you have a large enough garden, keep different varieties at least 1/2 a mile away from each other, or just grow one squash variety.
If they do cross pollinate, the seeds they produce will be hybrids, but more on that later.
If you want to try a few different varieties and only have a small garden space, you could encourage friends to grow different varieties and share your crop with each other.
How to Save Squash Seeds
Step 1 – Hand pollinating squash is very easy. First you’ll have to identify the female and male flowers. These will both occur on the same plant and are easy to identify.
The male flower has a large stamen with lots of pollen and grow on long skinny stalks, The females are closer to the stem and don’t have a stamen.
Simply get rid of the petals from the male flower and gently rub the stamen into the center of the female flower to transfer the pollen. Then keep the female flower closed with a rubber band.
Step 2 – Wait until the fruit has ripened and fully matured, past the point that it is edible. The rind should be tough and hard. Choose fruits from prolific plants that have the best tasting squash.
Step 3 – Cut the squash and scoop out the seeds and pit.
Step 4 – Put your seeds in a jar or bowl of water to ferment off the gelatinous lining of the seeds. That will allow you to be able to dry and store them.
Step 5 – After about a week, the good seeds will all sink to the bottom of the jar. The bad ones will still be floating and those are non-viable seeds for planting. You can throw the bad seeds out or into your compost pile.
Step 6 – Drain the water carefully and give the seeds a good rinse under cool running water.
Step 7 – Spread the clean seeds out onto paper towel, newspaper or a drying rack.
Step 8 – Once the seeds are fully dried, store the seeds in paper envelopes, glass mason jars or plastic bags. You can add silica packets to absorb any excess moisture.
Make sure that you keep your seeds somewhere where the temperature will not fluctuate dramatically. The ideal place is somewhere with cool and dry conditions.
How Long Will Squash Seeds Last?
Squash Seeds can last up to five years. The key to long-lasting squash seeds is to keep them cool and dry.
You can keep them in a refrigerator, but it’s not necessary unless you live in a hot and humid climate.
Although they do last awhile, it’s better to re-plant them every year if you can. It will make you a better gardener, and you will get better and healthier plants.
Can I Save and Grow Hybrid Squash Seeds?
Squash hybrid varieties are plants that have been cross-pollinated to create a plant that is a mix of the two different parent plants. If you sow seeds from hybrid plants, you cannot guarantee the results.
For example, you may have seeds from a variety that is very tasty and resistant to plant diseases. Half of these traits may have come from one variety, and half from another.
If you plant these hybrid seeds, you may end up with half your crop being resistant to blossom rot, but inedible. The other half may come out tasty, but you lose most of your crop to disease.
Planting with hybrids is a risk, as you don’t know what the end result will be until harvest. But when it comes to commercial seed producers, they breed hybrids for specific, desirable traits and being easier to mass grow.
If you have inadvertently created your own hybrid, you won’t be able to control what traits are passed on. The seeds you plant the next year won’t be like the parent plant, and any subsequent seeds may not even produce viable fruit.
If you’re curious and feel like experimenting, then you can just see how it turns out. However, seed saving from hybrids is not something most experienced seed savers would attempt.
It can be fun seeing how the plants turn out, but it’s not really efficient or practical. Seed saving from open pollinated varieties will lead to higher yields and more predictable outcomes.
You will be able to continue seed saving each generation indefinitely with no major issues.
Commercial Squash Seed Production
Seed saving is a practice that is as old as written history. Recently, with the influx of corporately-owned GMO genetically-modified varieties, the practice of saving seeds have become illegal in some areas.
This has happened gradually, as seed production became a separate enterprise to farming. To maximize profits and ensure farmers cannot produce seeds for themselves, seed companies sell hybrid seeds to commercial seed growers.
In reality, bio-diversity is the best way to prevent farmers losing money through failure of crops. By planting different types of crops, farmers can be sure that if one crop fails, they have others to fall back on.
Factory farming prefers farmers to grow a lot of one type of crop. This is to make the farmers reliant on the income from their crop and not to be able to sustain themselves through what they grow.
Final Thoughts on Squash Seed Saving
By seed saving squash, not only are you providing yourself with tasty squash every year, you are preserving these varieties and practices for generations to come.
Not only are you a seed saver, you are a seed savior.
Saving seeds has allowed some magnificent varieties of squash to survive, so if you’re looking for an open pollinated squash to grow, do research heritage varieties (aka heirloom varieties) also.
Heritage fruits and vegetables are varieties that have been grown for over 50 years. They can be found at online shops like rareseeds.com.
For other seed saving tips for other plants, check these articles out: