Saving Pumpkin Seeds in 5 Easy Steps
Should you bother saving pumpkin seeds when you cut into your harvest jack o lantern? When your plans include eating pumpkin seeds or planting pumpkin seeds the steps are similar. The first thing you notice when you cut into the top of your pumpkin is all the stringy, gooey pumpkin guts. You scoop all that mess out and plop it on a pile of newspapers covering the table. Now what?
Chickens and Pigs Love Pumpkin Guts and Seeds!
All those seeds, at the very least, are a great snack for your chickens and pigs. No rinsing, drying, or roasting necessary. The critters will enjoy the treat. If your Jack-O-Lantern doesn’t get moldy, the chickens and pigs can enjoy that too. If you don’t have chickens and pigs waiting for treats from the kitchen here are a couple of things you may want to do with the seeds.
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
Roasting the pumpkin seeds gives you a tasty snack. If you haven’t tried roasted pumpkin seeds yet, let me assure you that eating pumpkin seeds is pleasant! They may look messy, sitting all mixed in with the pumpkin guts, but once seasoned and roasted, they are delicious. It’s a great feeling when you’ve used all the parts of a pumpkin, except the stem! Looking for ways to safely store pumpkin for winter? Instructions are here.
Saving pumpkin seeds first requires that you separate the seeds from the goop. This is best done using a colander and cleaning the seeds under running water. You will want to wash off all the pumpkin flesh and strings.
Lay the clean seeds on a layer of paper towel, to drain. This is the first step for both eating pumpkin seeds or saving seeds for planting pumpkin seeds.
Lightly oil a baking sheet. I like to use coconut oil.
Coat the seeds with paprika, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of salad oil such as cannola oil.
Roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the seeds over and roast for an additional 15 minutes. Cool before eating.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds from your pumpkin
Now that we’ve covered eating pumpkin seeds, lets look at the steps for planting pumpkin seeds you saved from your pumpkin. When saving pumpkin seeds for future planting, it’s important to completely dry the seeds, before storing.
Follow steps above for eating pumpkin seeds but after the seeds are clean, and drained, transfer the seeds to a single layer on dry paper towels. This is now Step 3.
Dry the seeds completely, in a single layer in a cool, well ventilated area. Do not place in direct sunlight. Dry for about a month, to make sure they are completely dry.
Inspect the seeds. There will be plenty of seeds to choose from and not all will be the best to save for planting pumpkin seeds. Choose the largest and most robust for planting. Store your seeds in a paper envelope, labeled with the year and pumpkin variety. If there are enough other seeds, go back and follow the steps for roasting pumpkin seeds. Storing the seeds in an envelop versus a plastic bag prohibits mold growth. (I learned this the hard way)
Do You Need an Heirloom Pumpkin for Saving Seeds?
When you save seed you want a seed from a pumpkin that was open pollinated or heirloom variety. These are able to reproduce from the seeds. Saving pumpkin seeds from an heirloom pumpkin gives you options to eat the seeds or save the seeds for planting.
When you have a hybrid pumpkin, which is the more likely possibility if you purchased a pumpkin from a store rather than a farmer’s market, the seeds you save will not produce pumpkins. But you can certainly enjoy a good snack from roasting the seeds.
Running a Test Germination on the Pumpkin Seeds
Maybe you aren’t certain of your pumpkins genetic make up. Is there a way to determine if saving pumpkin seeds for planting is a good idea? Running a germination test on a few of the seeds will let you know if the seeds will grow.
- Choose ten healthy seeds, cleaned and dried
- dampen a paper towel and lay the seeds on the towel.
- place the paper towel and seeds in a zipper plastic bag.
- mist the bag every few days to keep the paper towel moist but not wet and soggy.
- At ten days time, check to see how many seeds have germinated. If more than five seeds have germinated you have a good chance of having viable pumpkin plants from your seeds. If there are only a couple of sprouts, get new seeds from your garden supplier.
Planting Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkins need a lot of room. They will also happily take what ever room you give them! Avoid overcrowding the pumpkin patch by choosing a suitable large space. Pumpkins can require up to 20 square foot per plant. Pumpkins also like hot dry weather and lots of sunlight.
Start your seeds outside if you live in a warm climate. If you garden where it’s cooler, especially in the spring, start your pumpkin seedlings indoors, and transplant to the garden, later. Pumpkins take 90 to 120 days to produce full grown pumpkins so look at the calendar and plan the planting or indoor seed starting for your area.
In the designated area, make a mound of earth a few inches tall. Plant 3 to 5 seeds in each hill. Once the seedlings sprout, thin each hill to two seedlings.
Do you try to use all the parts of your pumpkins? What’s your favorite recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds?