Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saving Seeds

The Delicata squash is one of my favorites. It has a plump, small, zeppelin like shape that is largely yellow or yellowish-orange, with long green stripes down its length. It's relatively meaty for its small size, and is quite easy to de-seed. I am cooking Delicatas for with our dinner this evening, something I've been anticipating for days. It's a simple recipe: split in half, de-seed, scrape the innards a bit with a fork, then put a plop of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar in each half. Place these into a baking pan or cast iron pan (as I did, pictured) with about a half inch of water in the bottom, and bake at 350F for about an hour. It's ready when a fork goes into the thickest parts of the squash with ease.

The result of this cooking creation, of course, was a pile of gooey seeds on my cutting board. I stared at them, grumpy that I don't have a real composting bin right now. It seemed somehow shameful to just toss out those seeds, after all! Then I remembered... these were not squash from the grocery store. They were from the local organic farm! Glory be, I had my spring crop of squash sitting right there waiting for me! I did the happy squash dance for a few minutes, startling Gray and causing him to shoot dirty looks at me. I didn't care, though. Seeds! Oh joy!

I googled "saving delicata seeds" just to make sure I remembered it correctly. I did. Saving winter squash seeds is as simple as scooping them out, washing them off, and drying them thoroughly. They are then stored in a dark, cool place until spring, when you can either wait for a soil temperature of 70F (hah... not in New England! lol) or start them indoors and then transplant them when it warms up.

I washed the seeds up very nicely, using a colander with small holes and running "not quite cold" water. I separated all the goopy parts from the seeds, and trashed those. The seeds were then swished and washed yet again. The result was a pile of quite lovely looking little seeds. Once they're dry, I'll have to pick through them and get rid of any immature ones (tiny ones, or shriveled ones). Still, that's an impressive amount of seeds to save for planting in the spring!

I spread the wet seeds in one layer across a doubled up paper towel on top of one of my dish drying foamies. There they'll stay until they're dry as bones, probably 2 to 3 weeks. When they're ready, I'll pop them into an amber jar and store them away in the back of the pantry cupboard, where they will sleep away the winter with dreams of bright yellow blossoms next spring.

Now, you could try this with any squash, but those that come from the grocery store are unlikely to germinate, and even if they do, there is no guarantee they will breed true. Organic ones would have a better chance, if you want to give it a try, though. Good luck to those who save seeds!