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Breeding Your Own Squash (page 2 of 6)

by Carol Deppe

Family relations: squashes and pumpkins

Family relations: squashes and pumpkins
C. pepo, a delicata type

Squashes, pumpkins, and vegetable marrows belong to one of four species of Cucurbita:

C. pepo includes most of the summer squashes, nearly all the acorn and delicata types of winter squash, and many classic pumpkins, such as 'Small Sugar';

C. maxima includes many of the finest long-storing winter squashes, such as 'Sweet Meat', 'Green Hokkaido', and 'Red Kuri' (three of my favorites), all the Hubbards and banana types, and most of the giant pumpkins;

C. moschata includes 'Tahitian Melon Squash', 'White Rind Sugar', and all the butternut types; and

C. mixta (sometimes called C. argyrosperma) includes 'Campeche', 'White Cushaw', 'Silver Seed', and others.

Incidentally, there's little rhyme or reason why a cucurbit variety is called a squash, a pumpkin, or a vegetable marrow. For example, you can legitimately call any squash a pumpkin, and vice versa. When looking for a specific variety in a seed catalog, however, look under both squash and pumpkin.

Squashes and pumpkins are monoecious, meaning each plant has separate male and female flowers. The plants are primarily pollinated by various kinds of bees. Different species do not cross spontaneously, with the possible exception of C. moschata and C. mixta. So if you grow only one variety of C. pepo, one of C. maxima, and one of C. moschata, and you have no squash-growing neighbors closer than about 1/2 mile, you can save your own seed without having to do hand pollination. Very few of us live more than 1/2 mile from gardening neighbors, however. And as we learn seed saving, we want to grow more varieties, not fewer, because so many more possibilities exist; so for most of us, seed saving requires learning to pollinate by hand.

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