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More Seed Saving

January 11, 2012

One of our goals/wishes is to grow most of our own food.  To make that task seem a little less daunting, we have certain criteria that we subject potential foods to before they qualify as homestead keepers for us.  Our mix of vegetables that we grow are made up from varieties that my gardening mentors passed on to me, vegetables that allow us to be lazy gardeners, and vegetables we like to eat.  I would have to say Sweet Meat winter squash meets the provenance, lazy gardener, and tasty criteria all in one fell swoop.  I’ve grown it for years from seed I was gifted with, Hangdog and I met at a business built on the old Gill Brothers nursery site (Gill originated Sweet Meat.)  And I like a winter squash that stores until the next summer with a minimum of fussing, not to mention it tastes good.  I take care of the squash during the growing season and it feeds me all winter – it is a vitamin rich winter staple for us, to the tune of 400 – 500 pounds a year.

Sweet Meat Cucurbita maxima enjoyed by a vole.

Sweet Meat is a tough customer.  As you can see the voles wanted the seeds, but didn’t chew through the thick flesh.  They did get a couple of squashes though, so I harvested these and set them to cure.  No point in feeding the wildlife that much.  The damaged squash has been fine in storage, but I am using these first, just in case.  Winter squash of the right variety can really be a survival food, once they are grown (if you are able to grow squash in your area) and harvested, they store very well.  As a general rule, C. pepo doesn’t store too long, that’s acorn, pumpkins, etc., although Delicata seems to keep fairly long.  I just don’t bother with them because they are so small.  C. maxima stores well, that is your Hubbard type squash, some are large and some are small, like Red Kuri.  C. moschata keeps very well too, but in my area the butternuts, as much as I like to eat them, don’t put on a reliable crop.  So Cucurbita maxima is the one for my garden and pantry.


When your saving your own seeds you can afford to pay attention to detail.  Besides evaluating the squash from germination to harvest, I save seeds from individual squashes that keep well, and taste good.  The squash are good at first harvest too, but they do sweeten in storage and there is a noticeable difference between specimens.

Since the squash keep so well, I only cook as needed, no need to process and freeze or can these for a later use.  I don’t have time in the fall anyway and they don’t need it.  In September I fed the squash we didn’t eat to the laying hens.  That’s a keeper in my book.

So each week as I cook a squash, I pull out the seeds to dry, and if the squash tastes good I commit the air-dried seeds to the seed bank.  I guess that isn’t really true, they all taste good, some just taste better than others.  And all the seeds taste good too, some are just better candidates for planting on.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Livia permalink
    January 11, 2012 9:52 am

    Hi MOH,

    Happy New Year! It’s the first time I’m commenting in the new year.

    I wanted to ask you what kind of dishes you make with the winter squashes. I grew Oregon Sweet Meat, and I love it baked in the oven, but I am not crazy about squash soups and was wondering what other uses might there be for it.

    I think it’s wonderful to save your own seeds for many reasons. But one of them it’s for sure the fact that year after year that particular variety adapts so well to the specific conditions in your garden.

    Thank you!
    Liv

    • January 11, 2012 12:26 pm

      Hi Liv! Hope you’re well. I tell you I not fond of squash soup either, after having a broken jaw with my mouth wired shut for several months, I like chunks! I steam mine, and use it in the place of pumpkin in any recipe. But you know mostly I like it with just a little butter after it is steamed. So I steam about a half of squash, and use that through the week. And mostly it is my go-to fast food for lunch, it just needs reheating and I’m good to go. My dogs get the cooked skin and I get the squash. Before my my DH was off grain, I used it for baking, pumpkin pie, muffins, pumpkin bread and cookies. Hope that helps.

      • Livia permalink
        January 11, 2012 12:57 pm

        It helps a lot, thanks.

        Yes, I should look into baking options.

        Now I have a craving for squash:). It will have to wait until tonight when I get home. I have some Delicatas at home that are already baked.

    • January 13, 2012 9:14 am

      I’m with you, Livia – not fond of squash soup. I’ve just been alerted to savory squash recipes this year. Try cubes baked with curry powder! Or a “pumpkin pie” made with sage, rosemary, and other “turkey” spices instead of cinnamon and sugar. Baked cubes are also great in any Mexican-style food: burritos, pozole, etc.

  2. Robin S permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:55 am

    Sweet meats are so hard to cut open, I usually bake them whole (making it impossible to save seed). How do you open yours up?

    • January 11, 2012 12:28 pm

      Robin S, yes they are tough, I cut mine in half with my largest knife. It helps to break off the stem first and start the cut there and work your way around. The one I cut yesterday made me think I was going to slip and gut myself, it was so tough 😉 Barring that, a hatchet or axe works real good too. Splits a lot easier than firewood!

      • Racquel permalink
        January 11, 2012 7:15 pm

        Hope you don’t mind me chiming in on this one:
        I like to use small pie pumpkins to make a pumpkin custard that is baked in the shell(a yearly tradition for my sister-in-laws birthday). The shells are very hard and you have to be carful not to crack it or cut off too much at the top. I have developed a method that is a trowback to the old Lady Plumer commercials where she had a tool box for kitchen use. We bust out my husbands recipricating saw with a new blade. It makes fast work of the hard shell without me losing another chunk of finger. I’ve made a few trip to the Dr. for that. Those hard shells give you a nice long storage life but are a bear when it comes time to cook. If you are going to use a knife, use a blade that is not too thick but has some depth of blade and a sturdy handle. A clever is too thick to make a clean cut. usually it will crack the squash

      • January 13, 2012 9:15 am

        Someone once told me (for Hubbards) to put it in a paper grocery bag, then drop it from a height onto the edge of my concrete porch step. It cracked open under its own weight, and the big chunks were easy to manage with a knife. Wonder if that would work with a Sweet Meat?

  3. January 11, 2012 2:39 pm

    Oh how I love pumpkin. Can’t seem to grow it though…. but I persevere!

  4. CarolG. permalink
    January 11, 2012 2:48 pm

    I have, descended to to depths of hauling out a small saw to open a squash when I was afraid I might cut myself. I will say, I have been baking all my spaghetti squash whole just because it is so much easier for us. Who sells Sweet Meat seeds? I’ve been thinking of trying them.

    • January 11, 2012 4:16 pm

      CarolG, I know, I smashed the Naked Seeds on the ground and made it easy…won’t work with a maxima though. Territorial & Fedco both sell them. 🙂

  5. January 11, 2012 6:51 pm

    How large is your garden plot? We have what I consider a smallish one here, but everybody else seems to think it’s huge! Ideally, we want to grow most of our own food as well. So, I thought I’d feel out a few people and see how big theirs is and what they recommend.

    I grew up on the Hubbards. Sadly, my father planted many varieties of squash that year and didn’t harvest them all. Due to cross pollination, we got to eat a lot of weird squash the next year. It put me off squash for about 30 years. I’m just now pondering them again and trying to figure out how to sneak it to my family. Thanks for the suggestions here!

  6. Racquel permalink
    January 11, 2012 7:25 pm

    We love the butternut and spaghetti squashes. Sweet potatoes do well here in Virinia as well. This year however would have been a totoal loss for the winter squash if I hadn’t gotten in a few late accorn squash. The proliferance of bugs and diseases are killing me.

    I am always interested in the varieties you use. I remember that not too long ago-since I only found you in November- reading a long list of varieties you put together. Do you remember what the title of that blog was or did I see it elswhere?

    • January 11, 2012 8:23 pm

      Racquel, I thought I remembered the post with all the varieties listed, but I can’t find it. I think it is back in the ’08 archives somewhere…there is one – somewhere on here. It doesn’t change much from year to year though, so any you read about now are probably on that list. 🙂

  7. Racquel permalink
    January 11, 2012 7:36 pm

    PS. for those looking for something differnet to do with winter squash. Pumpkin and butternut go great in stews with a tomatoe base. My family loves pork and pumpkin stew that has cumin as its main spice. I take this dish for pot luck dinners every once in a while and I have never brought any home. also you can use the same varieties to make gnocci. Very tasty with a sage butter.

  8. helen permalink
    January 11, 2012 8:39 pm

    I’ve tried steaming squash but it always turns out icky – I’m guessing that yours aren’t watery? Do you ever bake them?

    • January 11, 2012 8:55 pm

      Helen, I tried baking them once – it took too long (lots of electricity or wood) and I didn’t like the texture. I use a large 5 quart covered kettle with a small amount of water in the bottom with a collapsible steamer basket. Due to the size of the squash I only cook a half at time. I cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, cut the half in thirds and place skin side UP, cover and bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium until the skin is soft when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. After the squash cools I refrigerate the cooked slices until I need them, usually by lunch time 😉 I like the smooth and creamy texture when the Sweet Meat is cooked this way.

  9. Patrick permalink
    January 13, 2012 6:04 pm

    How do you avoid cross-pollination?

    • January 13, 2012 7:23 pm

      Patrick, I only grow one maxima, and there are no gardeners nearby… If crossing is a problem, you can self pollinate yourself, and cover the blossoms with tape. It’s a hassle though, I take the path of least resistant and just grow the one type.

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