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Hatchet Job

November 23, 2012

The final job of any size left in the vegetable department is harvesting the hull less pumpkin seeds.  The pumpkins were gathered and stored in the barn some time ago, and as usual they were starting to get in the way.  Besides the obvious edible seed component, I am also looking for good seed specimens.  Like any other seed saving mission, I am looking for representative pumpkins that exhibit the traits I want in the garden.

Styrian Naked Seed pumpkins

It’s pretty easy for me to keep my Sweet Meat squash seed true since I grow no other C. maximas, but the Naked Seed is a C. pepo and I do grow some summer squash which may cross-pollinate.   As the growing season progresses you can usually tell if you have a throwback or not.  One hill this year exhibited only long fruit instead of the usual pumpkin shape.  I suspected the elongated pumpkins would have hulls on their seeds, but you never really know.  Plants can surprise you, so I let them grow and harvested them with the rest of the lot.

I have smashed these pumpkins by dropping them, or when I only had a few, I would cut them open jack-o-lantern style.  But today I had forty to process so the using a hatchet seemed to be the quickest with the least amount of effort on my part.  All that kindling chopping has come in handy I guess.  A few well place whacks around the equator and the pumpkins would pop open revealing the prizes inside.

Just as I had thought, the oblong pumpkins revealed hulled seeds.  I can’t come up with the half mile isolation distance needed for these, nor do I want to bother hand-pollinating a minor crop such as this, so I live with the results.  Five pumpkins out of  forty-five to fifty is not that bad.  The cows get the spoils, so they get a little extra treat with these.  May the fastest cow win when I throw these into the fresh paddock 😉

ETA:  At paddock shift, the cows did dive on the ones with seeds first, and the calves just watched with puzzled looks.  Next year they will know what to do.

This is what pay-dirt pumpkin seed style looks like.  No hulls, and lots of seeds.  🙂  Now just to rinse, dry and store for the winter and we’re set with pumpkin seeds for another season.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren Cathcart permalink
    November 23, 2012 3:42 pm

    Great post! Did you chop small pieces for the cows or did you just toss the halved pumpkins in for them? I am wondering about choking. I grew beets and turnips for our chickens and pig but was worried about the cows choking on them if I left the chunks too large. Thanks! Lauren

    • November 23, 2012 4:26 pm

      Lauren, they do seem to manage the pumpkins as long as they broke up in pieces, but I do chop small, hard fruits or veggies to avoid the possibility of choking.

      • Lauren Cathcart permalink
        November 23, 2012 4:42 pm

        Thanks- I was thinking max size for hard fruits or veggies should be the size of a strawberry?

        • November 23, 2012 5:04 pm

          Lauren, about…I sometimes use a root chopper, and it slices everything pretty thin. I’m not feeding too much right now so I am slicing round things like apples, beets, etc., by cutting a slice off to make a flat spot and then just slicing up the rest of the “fruit” in small slices. Other stuff like the mangels or carrots are just coins and so far no problems.

        • Lauren Cathcart permalink
          November 23, 2012 5:11 pm

          I saw one of those farm root choppers on ebay- about 500 bux…

        • November 24, 2012 6:29 am

          Lauren, I am borrowing mine from a friend 🙂

  2. Katharina permalink
    November 23, 2012 3:53 pm

    This is a fascinating post! I studied biotechnology which includes genetics, so you’d think I would have known more about this, but it’s so fascinating that you actually observe this stuff. You should think about teaching a bio lesson to the local HS kids!!!

    • November 23, 2012 6:47 pm

      Katharina, the diversified farm is the ultimate applied subject classroom for all sorts of things: bio, physics, math, art, history, composition, physical education, etc, etc. Seems that it used to be that schools supplemented this learning that most kids were growing up with. Now that primary learning on the diversified farm is mostly gone.

      Nita, great post as always. I think you’ve written about it in the past, but is the flesh on these really not worth eating? Do they keep if you’re not running out of space? I’m looking for a unique storage variety (pepo, I think I already have identified maxima and moschata types I want) for dry farming and selling to winter markets.

      • November 24, 2012 6:49 am

        Josh, the flesh is OK…great for pumpkin pickles, but I really like the taste and texture of the Sweet Meat types so for me to take this and puree it and add seasonings just to make it more flavorful probably won’t happen when I can just use the other squash. That said, if I had a bad winter squash year I would definitely eat them. As for keeping, I have went as far as late December and they did OK, not like an acorn, which are easy to see spoiling but rotten/wet inside with no outside indication of this until you open them. I did the three sisters with Delicata and it did well and kept into spring, but they are just too small for us, tasty though and maybe more suited for casual squash eaters. I just read somewhere the other night (can’t remember where though) that the Indians kept the squash separate? Buffalo Bird Woman perhaps? One thing, these are very vigorous and cold tolerant, practically jumping out of the ground, compared to other cucurbits I’m growing.

        Value added – pickles 😉

        • November 24, 2012 12:20 pm

          Thanks Nita, I’m actually starting to think that the seeds might be more valuable anyway – hard to sell a lot of whole squash, but seeds are a different story (and there wouldn’t be that many, relatively speaking). The flesh could go to pickles, or animals on the property, or even just back into the soil directly. I have no idea what the true cultivation practices of the “three sisters” were. I should do more research, but I’m sure it varied around the Americas. I did like the three together when I did them that way so I’m going to keep working with it and see how it goes.

        • November 24, 2012 12:35 pm

          Josh, one thing with this variety (from Turtle Tree) is that I always have a lot of variation in pumpkin size which appears to have no correlation to the seed yield. I’m thinking of trying Kakai this year to see if I can get back to some smaller pumpkins. It’s a pain lugging the heavy ones around, when the small ones have just as many seeds and are easier to handle several times.

  3. November 23, 2012 11:05 pm

    I was wondering how to manage my plot with squashes. I wasn’t sure whether to try the hand pollination method, but I suspect I would only get it all mixed up. Do you grow the pumpkins in different places, to at least reduce the risk of cross pollination?

    I will have to buy some new Styrian seed as I got absolutely zilch from them this year on my first attempt, but then again none of my squashes did that well anyway.

    • November 24, 2012 6:59 am

      Joanna, I have two garden plots and they are separated by greenhouses and some mature orchard trees, plus a tad of pasture, so it’s the best I can do and for the most part it works pretty well 🙂

      • November 25, 2012 3:38 am

        Okay well that is worth knowing. I can organise several spots as we have shelter belt trees and with a bit of organising of pole beans I am sure we can manage something similar.

  4. Barb in CA permalink
    November 24, 2012 11:32 am

    Matron, do you dry them in the oven, a dehydrator, or just air dry the seeds? I’ve never done it before, but I do love pumpkin seeds. You must have many, many batches with all those pumpkins?

    • Barb in CA permalink
      November 24, 2012 11:34 am

      Also, could you give us an idea of how much you ended up with?

      • November 24, 2012 12:31 pm

        Barb, it looks like about 2 gallons of seeds, they aren’t quite done yet, don’t know a weight, but that’s quite a few seeds to snack on. Excellent in pesto!

    • November 24, 2012 12:30 pm

      Barb, I’ve done them all, this time though I think I will use the dehydrator and not tie up the oven. I’m notorious for forgetting them in the oven until I either smell them or hear them popping! I think it just depends on what is the most convenient for you. They do keep well enough you can do them in small batches, if you have a small drying space.

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