Saving Seeds from Pumpkins, Squash and Gourds

Learn how to save seeds from pumpkins, gourds and winter and summer squash.

| October 2015

cucurbita flowers

The four cultivated species in the genus Cucurbita are monoecious and produce female flowers (left) and male flowers (right) on the same plant.

Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange

The Seed Garden (Seed Savers Exchange, 2015) by Micaela Colley & Jared Zystro and edited by Lee Buttala & Shanyn Siegel brings together decades of research and hands-on experience to teach both novice gardeners and seasoned horticulturists how to save the seeds of their favorite vegetable varieties.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Seed Garden.

Four species of domesticated squash are commonly grown in gardens—Cucurbita argyrosperma, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, and Cucurbita pepo. All four species have the same mating system and are essentially cultivated in the same manner when grown for seed. Generally, the four species are not interfertile, or cross-compatible, allowing a seed saver to grow one variety of each species for seed in the same season. And because squash plants produce large unisexual flowers that are easy to handle, hand-pollination is a simple way to produce true-to-type seeds of many varieties, regardless of species.

Each species has slightly different physical characteristics—most notable in the peduncle, or fruit stem, and the seed traits of the species. Seed catalogs and variety descriptions are the best resources to help gardeners determine the species—and the potential for cross-pollination between different squash varieties.

Cucurbita argyrosperma: Squash and Gourd

Crop Types

Cucurbita argyrosperma, which includes most of the cushaw squash and the silver-seeded gourds, is the species least commonly grown in gardens. This species often has particularly vigorous vines with large, rounded, shallowly lobed leaves and usually bears fruits that lack furrowing. Cucurbita argyrosperma can be differentiated from other domesticated squash species by its large pale-margined seeds that are covered in a cellophane-like membrane; many varieties, such as ‘Silver Edged’, are grown primarily for their edible seeds. Some have seed coats that are so thin that the seeds appear to be hull-less, or without a seed coat.

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