Breeding Your Own Squash (cont)
By: Carol Deppe
Processing Big Batches of Seed
To process several squash or pumpkins (or a whole field full) of one type, I suggest this fermentation method developed by Alan Kapuler, research director at Seeds of Change:
Put seeds, debris, and water into 5-gallon buckets, and set them aside for one to three days of fermentation. Sometime during the first day or so, swirl the seeds around with your hands to separate seeds and debris. Then, separate the floating seeds off into buckets with more water. Wait one to three days until the seeds sink. The good, vigorous seeds absorb water and sink. Inferior seed and empty seed husks don't sink.
Check the seeds daily to catch them on the day they go from floating to sinking. Collect the sinking seeds, rinse them, and put them on dehydrator trays. Dry them for eight hours at 95° F. (Stop drying them at the appropriate point, and "rustle up" the seeds to unstick them. See text above.)
A disadvantage of this fermentation method is that it's critical to dry the seeds quickly initially, because they've been allowed to absorb some water. You need a dehydrator. This method requires much less hand working than the simple washing method, though, because part of the work of separating seeds and debris is achieved by fermentation instead of hand labor. An additional advantage is that the poor quality seed separates out for easy disposal.
Carol Deppe, Ph.D., writes, gardens, and breeds vegetables in Corvallis, Oregon. She's the author of Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's and Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving (Chelsea Green, December 2000; $28).
Photography by National Gardening Association.