Seed Saving: How to Save Squash Seeds
(Page 8 of 9)
The biggest, heaviest seed on a plant comes from the biggest, most mature (earliest) fruits. I harvest as outlined in Growing Squash and Preparing Your Harvest. Then comes the after-ripening period. That is, the seed continues to mature and become heavier as it sits quietly in the curing fruit. I let all seed fruits after-ripen for at least a month, even the pepos. If the fruit is less than optimally mature, I give it as long an after-ripening period as possible short of the fruit rotting or molding. (It isn’t practical for large commercial seed producers to store fruit so as to after-ripen seed. This is one reason why it is so easy to hand-produce seed that is much better in quality than commercial seed.)
There are two basic ways to process squash seeds. Most of the time I process the seed from a single squash at a time. I open the squash, remove the seeds and put the halves in the oven, then process the seed. Usually, while the seeds are still attached in clumps I eliminate any areas of immature seeds. Then I loosen the seeds into a bowl of water and rub them with my hands. Usually, they float. (So does the pulp. So I prefer to exclude as much pulp as possible from the beginning.) I scoop the seeds with my hands into a second bowl of water and repeat the process. Sometimes I pour the water and seeds through a strainer and rub the seeds around against the strainer and run tap water through them. Mixing and matching and repeating produces clean seeds.
Next comes the drying. I spread the seeds in a monolayer on a dehydrator tray and set the temperature at 95°F. Now I proceed a bit differently for small seeds and big ones. With small seeds, I dry for about eight hours to one day. After the seeds have been drying a few hours, I come back and rustle them up with my hands so that they won’t stick to the tray when dry. Then I examine the seeds for dryness as already described. If they are dry enough, I seal them into Ziploc bags. (Brands matter. Many cheaper brands are thinner plastic.) Or I put them into a 1/2-pint jar and freeze them.
If the seeds are large, especially if they are huge, such as for ‘Sweet Meat–Oregon Homestead’, some Hubbard varieties, and ‘Amish Pie Pumpkin’, the surface of the seeds may crack if they are dried too fast. For these, after a few hours of drying and the rustling-up step, I turn the dehydrator off or take the tray out for a day. Then I return the seeds to the dehydrator and finish the drying. For the biggest seeds of the biggest varieties, the second stage of drying may take a day or more. It is especially important to break open big seeds and evaluate the meats for dryness, as described earlier.
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