Do you get confused when you look at seed catalogues and see that the same thing is called a pumpkin in one and a squash in another? I use to until I learned that pumpkins are squash. They all belong to the cucurbitaceae family. What does this matter? It doesn’t unless you are interested in saving seed, with an aim to save money, grow that which best suites your personal garden, or want a measure of self-sufficiency, then you’d best pay close attention. Some of the members of the cucurbitaceae family are highly attracted to each other and others can rub shoulders all summer and never a howdy do let alone a hybrid offspring.
How can you tell which will get all mushy mushy with each other and which ones won’t? There are four species of the genus Cucurbita that we think of as squash and pumpkin: e
- C. maxima includes large winter squash and some large pumpkins, along with lots of smaller varities including Buttercup and Mooregold.
- C. pepo includes the small pie pumpkins, field pumpkins, acorn squash, vegetable spaghetti, zucchini, summer crookneck squash, pattypan, and most other summer squashes.
- C. moschata includes butternut squash.
- C. mixta includes the cushaw varieties.
If two squashes are in the same family then they will cross if not they won’t even say, “Howdy do!” So you can save seed from both without worrying. Squash are insect pollinated. Which means if you have a neighbor who grows a garden within a half a mile and they grow something in the same family as yours then flying insects could pollinate your flowers crossing two very different kinds of squash if they are in the same family. It might be really good but then again not.
Since I want to save seed I decided I needed to do a few things.
- For me the first thing I did was to figure out what squash I wanted to grow in my garden.
The following four:
- Zucchini 2. Buttercup squash
3. Rouge vif d’etampes 4. New England Sugar Pie.
- The second was if it was important to grow every year.
Zucchini yes but the others could be rotated.
- Then I found out what family each squash is in.
1. Zucchini – C. pepo 2. Rouge vif d’etampes – Maxima
3. Buttercup – C. Maxima 5. New England Sugar Pie – C. Moschata
I can NOT grow Buttercup and Rouge vif D’etampe the same year without hand pollinating. The rest I can grow when ever I want.
- Formulate a plan of rotation or hand pollination to insure my seeds are pure.
Squash is a fruit since the seeds are inside and those seeds determine the next years crop. Buy seed from a reputable company and they should have taken care of the marriage to make sure your seeds are pure but only for the year you planted that seed. But if you want to save seed from the fruit you just grew then you need to know what family it was fro and make sure of the parentage.
Or you might find that:
Buttercup’s, prince charming may be waiting at the bottom of the stairs but the French, Rouge vif d’etampes pumpkin has whisked Buttercup away in his carriage. The result of the honeymoon will give you what? I’m not anxious to find out.
I want to save money, save seed from the most successful plants in my garden to perpetuate, increase my chance of success, and insure I keep the plant type going. My most reliable dried bean so far was just discontinued from the catalogue. My grandfather’s bean is old news and rarely sold even though those few who do grow it rave. Yellow wax beans just aren’t popular right now. So if you have a favorite then make sure it will continue.
Squash seeds saved under the right conditions will last 6 years.
- Knowledge needed to formulate a program to rotate the type of squash plants I grow.
- The last thing is to check with my neighbors one neighbor that grows a small garden.
Squash is an important vegetable in a self-sufficient garden and is ranked in the top five according to an article in Mother Earth News as it supplies significant calories and nutrients. Summer squash is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and niacin while winter squash is a good source of iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
But the real eye opener for me when I was formulating my growing plan of what squash what year is that most of the plant can be eaten. All I knew about was the blossoms and fruit. That makes this trailing fruit even more important to survival. The seeds of the squash, the squash, the tendrils, shoots, young leaves, and the blossoms can all be consumed. What’s left out – the roots. Squash may trail a long ways but all six feet can be eaten making it far more important than I once thought. I’m trying a new method this year to try and save space. I let you know how it works out.
I’ve not made pumpkin oil and don’t plan on it because it takes too many pumpkins but I will try the tendrils, spiny shoots which I read tenderize when cooked, the tender young leaves, and even the immature fruit which they recommend using it like zucchini – I need to try.
I have dried squash to make a powder, canned it, frozen it, boiled it, and roasted it fresh in the oven. Now I need to move on to the plant itself and immature fruit. I’m sure some in the squash family have better tasting plant parts than others. I’m going to find out. The gangling squash and pumpkins ends that take off for parts unknown will get a snip insuring larger fruit nearer to the base and will get carried off to the kitchen for experimentation or the animal pen. I’ve learned this winter that there is far more than I ever imagined that gets wasted from my garden. What nutritional nuggets have we tossed into the mulch pile, quite a lot I now know.
How about you?