Brains Trust

Can I save the seeds from a pumpkin I purchased from the supermarket?

It’s not a good idea, because cucurbits – think pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and zucchinis – cross-pollinate really easily. This means if your neighbour is growing a different variety than you, they will cross pollinate and the seed you save will almost certainly not grow like its parent. This can occur within a two kilometre radius. There are things you can do to ensure your cucurbits stay true to type, but it means identifying and isolating certain flowers on your plant and carrying out the pollination process yourself. It’s doable, but tricky and you need to know what you’re doing. We’ll look to cover this in more detail in an upcoming issue.

How do I know when to harvest seed?

Peak eating time is generally much earlier than when seeds are ripe to harvest and save. When we deem things like cucumbers and zucchinis ripe to eat, for example, their seeds will be too immature to sometimes even see, let alone germinate. While pumpkins are an exception, more often than not you’ll need to let a plant or fruit pass maturity in order to ripen its seeds. A pea or a bean, for example, you’ll need to let the pod dry on the plant before the seeds are ripe. And for vegetables without obvious seeds like lettuce, spinach and onions, you’ll need to wait for the plant to go to flower which, once dry, will form seeds. When the flowers have matured and are starting to dry out, cut the whole stem off and place it in a paper bag to dry completely.