A New Crop for Organic Farms

Reader Contribution by Toby Grotz
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Styrian Pumpkins

I call it a Chai Tea moment.

When I went to India for the first time in December of 1993, I met Chai.  I had never heard of it and loved it.  I thought it would be a great product for the US market.  But… I was doing other things and now the US market for Chai is huge.

Remember when there were no soybeans?  By gosh, you’re as old or older than I am.  Let me tell you.  Once upon a time farmers grew corn.  Then came soybeans.  Although they were introduced to this country in the 1700’s as a ship ballast it was not until the late 1940’s that soybean cultivation took off.  By 1973 soybeans had become America’s number one cash crop, and leading export commodity, ahead of both wheat and corn.

Now Chai and Soybeans are known throughout the land.  So what’s the next big crop and potential food source for the American market? There is a food grown in Austria and surrounding countries that is found in every restaurant and on every dining table, available in every grocery store and gas station, that is compatible with soils and climate in the upper Midwest.  It is the Styrian Pumpkin. The seeds have no shell and they are larger and much easier to process than other varieties of pumpkins.  Styria is a province in Austriaand the center of pumpkin production. 

I propose that based on the fact that the seeds and oil taste so good, are so healthy, and are everywhere in Europe where food is sold, that the Chai Tea moment for Styrian Pumpkin seeds is now here.  I’m writing this article in hopes that an enterprising generation of new farmers will take up the challenge to bring this food to the US market so we don’t have to go to Austria to get them.

Below is part of a harvest of Styrian Pumpkins from my backyard in Wisconsin.  At their peak, these plants grow 9-10 inches a day.  It’s quite a sight to go out in the early morning and then return at sunset to see the result of a days growth.  It seemed the vine was going to cover our lot and the neighbors as well.  They have a thick shell which is good for compost only.  After splitting them open with a hand axe, the seeds can be spread on screens and dried.

Nutritional Data

Besides being one of the best foods for prostate health, consider these facts:

1. Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil has, one of the highest concentrations of mono- and polyunsaturated fats of any oil. (uo to 80%)

2. A high vitamin E content (averaging 29 mg / 100 g), that means one portion of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil (10 ml) can cover up to 20 % of our daily dietary needs (the recommended vitamin E intake for an adult is, according to current sources, 12 mg per day) This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and, in the human body, plays a role in the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Furthermore, it prevents the oil from spoiling or going rancid too quickly.

Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil naturally contains high concentrations of oleic acid and linoleic acid, both of which are unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, meaning that it cannot be synthesized by our bodies. The substitution of unsaturated fatty acids for saturated fatty acids contributes to a healthy diet and can help maintain a normal blood cholesterol level. Though, naturally, as a part of a varied and balanced diet in combination with a healthy lifestyle. Linoleic acid can positively affect the blood cholesterol level at a daily intake of 10 g of linoleic acid. There are about 4 g of linoleic acid in every portion (10 ml) of Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil. Recipes

Planting

Austria has 173 to 229 frost-free days, depending on the regions.  Depending on the heat and the varieties, you can finish the growing cycle within the range of frost-free days.

You can check the climate data in Austria for the cities of Vienna, Graz, or Linz to cover the most important growing areas to see if it aligns with your location.

You can see the planting process here: https://youtu.be/szqNIZ1yoDE

Harvesting

This is a real kickhttps://youtu.be/J1ixR6X9qOo 

Styrian Pumpkin data for Austrian climate and soils

Below, I will present the data relevant to planting, harvesting, seed sources, and the potential profits from a developed market of the seeds and oil of the Styrian Pumpkin.

When I run the numbers, it appears to be a crop that would outperform both corn and soybeans in a developed market. I am not an agricultural economist but the data below seems to suggest that in a mature market oil production would approach $2,000 per acre, and seed production would approach $6,000 per acre with an oil price of $20/liter and seeds at $12/pound.  Spreadsheet calcs can be seen here.         

Seed Yield

Average in Austria is 600 kg/ha (8 % of humidity), with a variation from 400 kg/ha to 1,200 kg/ha.

Planting

18.000 kernels/ha

Single corn planters such as used for corn or soybeans with a different set of discs can be used. Very common is the Monosem precision vacuum planter.

Days to maturity(140-150 days)

For frost free days in your area go here

Styrian Pumpkin Seeds, where to get them and a comparison

Below is a photo that shows the Styrian Pumpkin seed from my crop on the left compared to pumpkin seeds available in natural food markets.  The Styrian seeds have a nut like taste, are softer to chew and are not as dry as the pumpkin seeds currently available.  As I said up front, I’m writing this article in hopes that an enterprising generation on new farmers will take up the challenge to bring this food to the US market.

Agronomically, there is no distinction between pumpkins grown for seed or oil. I obtained my seed from John Sherck in Bristol Indiana.  Click here for more information.

They can also be obtained from Strictly Medicinal seeds here. Saatzucht Gleisdorf Ges.mbHis a plant breeding company in Austria that provides Styrian Pumpkin seed.

Seed Varieties and Characteristics

GL CLASSIC

The new classical

oil content: 46.1%

maturity: early

GL MAXIMAL

The one with dark green kernel

oil content: 47.6%

maturity: medium

GL OSKAR

Winner in the category grain size

oil content: 48.5%

maturity: medium – late

GL PLANET

The drought tolerant

oil content: 47.0%

maturity: early – medium

GL RUSTIKAL

The proven

oil content: 48.4%

maturity: medium

GLEISDORFER ÖLKÜRB

The traditional

oil content: 46.4%

maturity: early – medium

To order large quantities of seed contact  Saatzucht Gleisdorf Ges.mbH 

Yields

 Luc Rauchs, Moty GmbH provided the following information from recent Austrian crops.

12,000 – 16,000 plants/ha.  NOTE: 1 ha = 1 hectare = 2.47 acres.

Every plant makes 1-2 pumpkins on average.

Average 18,500 pumpkins/ha

85 g of pumpkin seeds each

Average 600 kg seeds/ha (8 % of humidity)

Oil – 2.5 kg seed/litre sell for – 17€/litre.  = $19.34 USD goherefor up to currency conversion

Seed – € 21.90/Kilo  = $12.50 USD/pound

2016 Austria harvest 

45,000 ha of oil seed pumpkin were planted in Austria.

By comparison, rapeseed, sugar beets, potatoes have an average 40,000 ha.

Average yield of 750 kg/ha

33,750 tons were produced.

The farmers or contractors, windrow, harvest, wash, dry and pre-clean the seeds. The dried and pre-cleaned seeds are filled in BigBags. These BigBags are bought by the oil mills or retailers.

Average market price

Over the last 10 years was 3.33€/kg. This price is topped up with organic production (1-2 €) and/or in the original production region (0,1 – 0,3 €). Oil is sold for 17 €/l right from the farm to the end customer. In stores, 22 €/l in average.

In the United States you pay dearly for Styrian Pumkin seed oil but it is available here at $60/litre.

I was also told by the local parish priest who is from Poland, that I might find seeds and oil in a Polish food store in Chicago so I assume that would hold for other Polish food stores if you can find one in your area.

References:

https://www.macrotrends.net/2531/soybean-prices-historical-chart-data

http://www.soyinfocenter.com/bibliographies.php


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