Saturday, April 3, 2010

Don't Boil the Squash

Last Thanksgiving, I included a single acorn squash in the meal I prepared. The squash, which was purchased at a local grocery store, originated from a nearby place called Plainville Farm, and featured a little smirking squirrel on the label:

Several of my friends were understandably appalled much later when they learned that, being in a bit of a hurry, I chose to simply boil the squash rather than attempt some tastier form of preparation. And to this very day, I still keep hearing about this (you folks know who you are!).

But what my friends didn't realize is that, while cleaning out the squash, I actually took the time to wash, dry, and save the seeds. I had my doubts whether a store-bought squash's seeds could actually yield any plants, given the fact that commercial produce is often irradiated, usually killing the seeds in the process. But I wanted to try planting them in the spring anyway, just to see what would happen.

So, precisely one week ago today, I planted eight seeds in peet pellets, and much to my surprise, six of them germinated, with five healthy-looking seedlings emerging, and only one of them dying. The photo below shows one of the seedlings, merely five days after sowing:

Today, I moved them into small plastic pots with potting soil, and will probably still keep them indoors until after the 25th of April, which is predicted by the Old Farmer's Almanac as the last possible frost day for my area. Below, two large seedlings sit next to the seeds I had collected from the original squash. I stored the dry seeds in a stainless steel condiment cup, about the size of a shot glass:

And here are several of the seedlings after being moved into their temporary homes. I've named these guys "experiment station squash", just to emphasize the unexpected success that I've had with them so far:

I have several other collections of squash seeds (acorn and buttercup squashes) that I will likewise start soon. But I was really surprised by what a prolific and healthy looking set of plants this past Thanksgiving Day's dinner had provided me with as a by-product. Only I promise all my friends that I will never, ever boil any of these fine squash again. Honestly. Never.... :-)