~Breed-Your-Own Squash Project ~
A crowd-sourced vegetable-breeding resource.
We've prepared a breeding population of variable but related squash seed,
selecting only good-tasting and long-keeping ones, for you to further select your own personal variety from.
Historically, almost all our great vegetable varieties are the result of work of ordinary people
saving the seed from their best plants. Ordinary people who were good at gardening, and who really cared about their veg, but with no special training.
People just like your grandfather and grandmother, the last generation that routinely kept their own seed.
If you think about it, someone has to breed tomorrows heirlooms now. So why not you? It's easy and really fun.
~ The Story ~
In 2016 Ben went to a squash festival in the town of Treugerat in Brittany,
and there he found one type of squash that we had never seen before.
It had an amazing mix of blue and pink colours, delicious flesh and combined characteristics of two different classes of squash.
He brought it home as a souvenir (!) and saved the seeds, hoping to get more.
But when we grew out the seed we got a whole crazy mix of squash,
it was clearly an unstable accidental cross between two very different parents:
However, many of these squash were really good. We thought it would be an fun project for people to breed their own personal variety of squash.
So we made notes as we tried them and kept seed of those that were healthy, productive, and tasted good.
That seed we offer here as an elite breeding genepool for you to start with.
These seed are not pure-breeding - yet! At the moment the offspring from any one squash will give a whole range of plants with a whole variety of colours shapes and flavours. But all should be tasty and producive as we've already done the initial selection for you.
12 breeding seed £
How to Breed Your Own New stable Squash Variety
These seed are not pure-breeding - yet! At the moment the offspring from any one squash will give a whole range of plants with a whole variety of colours shapes and flavours. But all should be tasty and productive - we've already done the initial selection for you, so you are working with mixed, but good genetics.
- To breed your own pure new variety, look at your plants and decide on a fruit type you want to go for - it is really important to have a unchanging goal in mind.
- Then you self-pollinte the one plant most like that and save the seed from it. (See below for instructions)
The key point: Every year of self-pollination reduces variation by half. This is because when you self-pollinate, that chosen plant is both the mother and the father of the seed, so the offspring is half as variable as seed that has different parents.
Over time, as you repeatedly self-pollinate and keep seed from your favoured plant type, you reduce the variation by half each time. The offspring will get more and more uniform:
- Next year plant 10 of these seed from this self-pollinated fruit, and again choose one best plant ( more of them will be alike) to self-pollinate.
- Seed from this will now have 1/4 as much variation as you started with.
- Repeat! Carry on for 6 years, then you will have 1/64 as much variation as you started with; almost a stable variety.
- If you carry on two more years you shouldn't see any variation at all.
- You've created a new variety all of your own! Give it a name and pass it on to your friends!
Hand Pollination to get PURE Squash Seed:
This bit is important! It won't work if you don't do this! You have to hand-pollinate the flowers to keep them true to type.
The way to save pure squash seed on a home scale is to hand pollinate one or more fruits. It is simple, but really necessary. (The rubber bands are to stop the insects getting in and crossing them!)
Squash plants have two different types of flower, male and female. The female flowers are the ones that will grow into a squash. They can be identified by the small immature fruit which should be obvious beneath the flower. Male flowers just have a straight stem. You need to transfer pollen from a male flower into a female flower, while making sure that no pollen gets introduced from plants of a different variety:
One evening, look for the male and female flowers that are going to open the next day. Buds that are almost ready to open are much fatter than the others, and they are turning from green to yellow - especially at the tips of the petals. You'll find it easy to recognise them if you look at a few..
You need to stop these flowers opening, so that insects can't get into them, especially as the insects and flowers get up much earlier than you in the morning. The way to do this is to gently slip a rubber band over the end of the petals, to hold them shut. You can tie a knot in the middle of the rubber band, giving two loops, one to go over the petals and one to use as a handle.
The next morning, about 9am or so, go back to the plants. Pick one of the protected male flowers, take off its rubber band, and tear off the petals. Gently take the rubber band off of one of your female flowers. Using the male flower like a brush, rub the pollen on to each section of the stigma in the centre of the female flower.
Then carefully rubber band the female flower shut again so that no insects can get in with more, 'foreign', pollen. Tie a piece of red wool/string loosely around the stem of the female flower, so that at harvest time, you know which pumpkins you have hand pollinated.
Now leave the pumpkins to develop and ripen. After harvesting, write "SELFED - KEEP SEED" on the special ones with permanent pen. Keep them in a cool dry place for another month or so to ripen further indoors.
Then cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds, leaving the rest of the fruit for cooking as normal. Wash the seed in a colander, rubbing it between your hands to get rid of the fibres, and then shake off as much water as possible.
Spread the seed out on a towel or sheet of cardboard to dry. It needs to dry as quickly as possible, but without getting hot, so a sunny windowsill is good. To test whether the seeds are dry enough, try bending one in half. If it is dry, it will snap rather than bending.
Here we are , scooping out the seed. Wash in lots of cold water until not sticky, pick out any duds, and put to dry.