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Insurance – Spreading the Seeds Around

This button squash has been so good to me this summer.  It has bourne and bourne, for about 5 months now, yielding kilos from just two plants. You will see its picture in all sorts of recipes. It has kept going when lots of other varieties of cucurbits have curled up their toes in the wet weather.

kangaroo stuffed summer squashThe plants came as seedlings, given to me by Johanna, extras that she wasn’t going to plant.  But she doesn’t remember the variety. They look to me like Sunburst, but who knows.

But such good genes, especially for a wet year. They may be a hybrid, or they may have crossed with something else in my garden, so they may not breed true, but it’s worth a go at giving those genes another generation.

It was hard to let it go to seed.  Constant picking keeps the plant producing. Once I had decided to leave a fruit to seed, that was the end for that plant.  I waited as long as I dared, then carefully labelled a good looking fruit so that I didn’t absent-mindedly pick it.

I kept watch on it to make sure it didn’t rot, and when it was fully mature and the plant was beginning to die back picked it.  I scooped out the seeds, washed them, and dried them on a tray in the shade for a couple of days.  On the third day, it was cold and wet, and rather than risk them going mouldy, I brought them in to sit on the kitchen bench and soak up the warm dry air from the wood stove for a day.

Today I’ve packaged them up.  Because it was such a grey, wet day, I had some fun making cute little origami purses for them with recycled pages from a magazine.  I will only plant a dozen at most next year, so I’ve kept two dozen seeds.  The rest I’ve packaged up to give away to friends, visitors, anyone who comes by and is willing to take a chance.

I’ve learned, if I lose a variety, the best insurance is a fellow gardener who has kept the gene line going.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • dixiebelle May 8, 2011, 9:30 am

    Wonderful! We’ve had good success with button squash too, and they can be used in so many ways, but esp. hidden well and the kids don’t even know they are eating vegetables. It’s one of my husbands favourite vegetables too. I didn’t save any seed this year, because we had so many varieties of everything, I didn’t think anything would be true to type.

  • Nikki May 8, 2011, 10:50 am

    Oh, I didn’t realise that you needed to let them go to seed! I guess my pumpkins always do since I leave them till the stalk browns and hardens? So if you wanted to save cucumber seeds for example, you’d need to do that too rather than save seeds from picking them throughout the season?

  • spiralgirl May 9, 2011, 8:47 am

    Love it! And I love those origami purses. I hope your friends realise the precious gift they have there!

  • Linda May 9, 2011, 8:59 am

    Hi Nikki, yes, to collect cucumber seed you should let one just keep growing until it goes yellow. Once you let one fully mature, the plant generally stops bearing. In many varieties, the skin will harden off a bit too, and the seeds inside will be plump. If it was a hybrid variety to begin with, it won’t breed true, and if you have several different things in the same family at the same time, because they are insect pollinated they can cross and you may get something more like the father than the mother. But good varieties of things are more elusive than you would think, so it’s worth a go.

  • Linda May 9, 2011, 9:05 am

    I just hope they do breed true, or I’ll have a whole heap of people next spring wondering why I thought those weird little pumpkin things were so good!

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