I received a small pumpkin in my CSA basket last week, and prepped it yesterday morning for decorating. You would not believe the massive amount of seeds that came out of such a tiny cavity – I’ve bought much larger pumpkins in the past that didn’t even have a quarter of the seeds that this one did.
If you’re hoping to grow your own jack o’lanterns next year from seed you’ve saved, you’ll have to know how the pumpkin that you’re saving seed from was grown…or, more specifically, what it was bred with. Pumpkin plants, like all other members of the genus Cucurbita, can cross-pollinate. That means that each species of cucurbits can cross with plants within the same species – so, C. pepo such as zucchini (and some pumpkins) can cross with spaghetti squash, for example. (Despite the pervasive myth, cucurbits cannot cross with cucumbers or any types of melon). This pollination mash-up will not show up as freaky traits in the current crop, BUT it will affect future crops if the seed is saved. To prevent this, you must either plant pumpkins in isolation, or hand-pollinate individual plants (which bees normally take care of) and keep the flowers enclosed in paper bags until the plants are past the pollination stage.
If you manage to get some true seed from your pumpkins, make sure you wash them well and dry them on a piece of paper towel. Keep more than you think you will need, as not all of the seeds will germinate. Set the drying seeds in a cool place for about a week, then place them in a paper envelope. If you want to store the seeds in the fridge (a good place), punch some holes in the lid of a large plastic yogourt container and pack the seeds inside. (The holes will keep moisture from condensing inside the container and is an excellent idea to use whenever you are saving seeds). Ensure you label the container with the date and the contents.
I don’t plan to grow pumpkins next year – I simply don’t have enough room in my community garden plot for such large plants. So, what better to do with a bounty of pumpkin seeds than to eat them?
Lime and Chili Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds from one pumpkin
3 tbsp freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (if you have coarse salt, use that)
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper (if you like the spice!)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all ingredients except seeds in a small bowl. Carefully wash pumpkin seeds in cool water, removing all of the extra bits of pulp. Dry the seeds thoroughly between several layers of paper towel and transfer to the bowl with the lime and chili. Combine thoroughly and spread seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast seeds in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove pan and stir the seeds, spreading them out once again in a single layer. Place in oven for another 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. Enjoy!
Do you grow pumpkins in your garden? Do you harvest any of them for jack o’lanterns? (And, if so, do you eat the seeds?).