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Dear Aggie

Can I save seeds from my pumpkin and winter squash to grow in the garden next year?

Saving seeds from pumpkins and winter squash is easy. Simply cut open the squash, scoop out the seeds, and separate them from the pulp as best you can. Next, place them in a colander and rinse them under cool water to remove more of the pulp and sticky residue. Continue doing this until most of the pulp is washed away and only seeds remain. Discard any that are small, misshapen, or damaged. As you’ll have more seeds than you can plant, choose the largest ones to save. Blot these with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Next, transfer them to a clean paper towel to continue drying. After about a week, the seeds will be completely dry. Peel them from the paper towel and place them in an envelope for next year. Be sure to label them with the date and variety. Store these in a cool and dark place until planting in the spring.

One consideration when saving seeds from any squash or pumpkin is that the plants may have crossed with other squash varieties in the field. Squash are particularly gregarious and cross easily. If the farmer who grew your pumpkin also grew other squash or pumpkin varieties (to include summer squash), there is a good chance that your pumpkin seeds will be a hybrid of different varieties. The results of these crosses can sometimes be unique and interesting surprises, but are more often than not unusable oddities.

The decision to plant seeds without knowing the lineage is up to you. How important is it that next year’s pumpkin look exactly like this year’s? Do you have the space to experiment with unknown varieties? Are you selling pumpkins to customers who have particular expectations? To be certain that to get the type of winter squash or pumpkin that you desire, it is best to purchase named varieties of seed from reputable companies.

Rather than saving pumpkin seeds, eat them! Roast seeds in the oven at 350F for about 12 to fifteen minutes, tossing the seeds every five minutes. If you want, salt them immediately upon removal from the oven. If you don’t like chewing the tough hulls on pumpkin seeds, next year you might plant varieties that have thin, edible hulls. Seeds from these varieties are known as pepitas. Examples of pumpkin varieties grown for pepitas include ‘Naked Bear,’ ‘Pepitas Hybrid,’ and ‘Triple Treat.’

Question answered by Mike Nuckols, Local Foods and Commercial Horticulture Educator. Contact him at msn62@cornell.edu or 315-788-8450. 

Contact

Catherine Moore
Agriculture and Natural Resources Issue Leader
Cmm17@cornell.edu
(315) 788-8450 ext. 236

Last updated October 26, 2020