Our tiny local shop has been doing a fine job of keeping our community well-stocked during isolation. I’m not just grateful for them, but for fellow community members too. Whilst in the shop yesterday, a local man had dropped off a heap of pumpkins, for the shop to give away for free. No better opportunity to show how to save pumpkin seeds for planting next year!
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I took a Butternut Pumpkin for some yummy pumpkin soup; my girls love pumpkin soup.
Locally grown pumpkin vines are the best for saving pumpkin seeds. You know they grow well in your local area and they are most likely grown with fewer chemicals than the shop-bought ones. You can still save pumpkin seeds from shop-bought pumpkins too, however, and why not! It doesn’t take much time at all and each pumpkin can render as many as 200 seeds. That’s lots of pumpkin vines!
How to save pumpkin seeds for planting next year
So then, how to save pumpkin seeds for planting next year? Let’s start by cutting the pumpkin.
Just cut it straight through the middle. You need some muscle power to do this. Once open, we can see all those beautiful pumpkin seeds. Next step is to cut the seeds out.
I like to use a metal soup spoon for this. My soup spoons are pretty crappy soup spoons because the edges are sharp and they are just that little bit too big to fit in your mouth. No one likes to use them. But… They’re perfect for getting the seeds out of a pumpkin. The sharp edge slices through and whips under. This particular pumpkin was a breeze. Some pumpkins put up more of a fight so you may need more impressive tools.
When all else fails, just cut the pumpkin in half again (so it’s in quarters), and you can cut the seeds out that way. I try to avoid doing that because I like to roast the pumpkin for pumpkin soup. They roast so beautifully with half an onion in the hole!
Cut right around the seed ball, like this:
You can now pop the whole center out, like this:
The seeds don’t look great yet, but they will, just wait! The next thing is….how to clean pumpkin seeds!
How to Clean Pumpkin Seeds
Storing pumpkin seeds with the pulp attached is not a good idea. The less pulp the better for storing them. The cleaner and drier your pumpkin seeds are, the better they will save for planting next year. Stored properly, they can last a few years!
Drop the pumpkin seeds in a colander. You don’t want a colander with small holes for this job, and definitely not a sieve. Pumpkin seeds are quite big and the pulp is coarse. I’ve tried it in a sieve before and it is a nightmare. Bigger holes, easier to clean pumpkin seeds! My colander is not perfect for this, it doesn’t have enough holes for my liking. It does the job though.
Try and rub the pulp gently to get as many seeds out as possible, whilst removing as much of the pulp as possible. Put the pulp somewhere else, I usually save it for the chickens. I don’t bother with the hard seeds. You know, the ones that really don’t want to become pumpkin vines and burrow themselves right in the pulp. Oh well. If you don’t want to become a new plant, so be it.
This depends on the fruit I’m getting seeds from. If it’s a lime, for example, I’ll jump through many hoops to get each seed out. You might only get 3 seeds per fruit. Pumpkin is a different story. You can get as many as 200 seeds from 1 pumpkin so those couple of stubborn seeds become chicken food instead.
Under running water, rub the seeds gently between your fingers. You’ll feel the pulp separate from the seeds. Keep going until the seeds are nice and clean. Pick the bigger pieces of pulp out with your fingers and the smaller pieces will slither through the holes in your colander.
Drain them, swish them around to remove as much water as possible. Time to drop the whole lot onto a paper towel for the first dry. Spread the seeds out evenly.
Sometimes, the pulp just won’t separate and you’ll find it impossible to clean pumpkin seeds. In this case, use the “pulp fermentation” seed cleaning method. I have a dedicated article on saving seeds that describes the process of saving and storing seeds in detail. Have a read!
Leave them until they are dry. For me, this only took 1 night. If you’re in a colder climate it might take a bit longer. Once they are dry, separate any pumpkin seeds that stuck together. The ones that stick together don’t dry properly. Pick the leftover pulp pieces off too.
I’m grabbing a handful to plant straight into the garden!
It’s a great season to plant pumpkins here, we don’t have to save all our pumpkin seeds for planting next year!
I’ll write a separate article on how to plant pumpkin seeds, but you get the drift here. Dig a small hole, drop your pumpkin seeds in. Cover lightly, water well. Keep them moist and wait for a new pumpkin vine to say Hello! I’m ready to grow loooots of pumpkins! For pretty much no money!
I love Bootstrap Farmer for seed raising supplies. They have a huge range of trays, pots, greenhouse, kits… Everything you need really. Pay them a visit!
You can also go rogue. I love going rogue! Nothing better than a plant that chooses where to grow and it fits right in with my Food Forest philosophy. This pumpkin below sprouted from last year’s saved seed. I had a heap of seeds leftover so the kids and I walked around the garden, merrily throwing pumpkin seeds around. This fella decided to grow right at the front gate and it’s growing its first pumpkin smack-bang on top of the fence.
This is a variety that grows big pumpkins, so time will tell if it has enough support to handle the weight of the pumpkin!
Storing Pumpkin Seeds
Put your cleaned pumpkin seeds in a paper bag so they can breathe and any leftover moisture can escape. You can leave the seeds in paper bags and store them in a seed saving envelope, cardboard box, or cotton material. Write on the packaging which seeds are inside and the date. I very elegantly did this with a nice, thick blue permanent marker…
The final step for storing pumpkin seeds is to make sure nothing eats them. Little critters like mice will love your pumpkin seeds. They’ll make sure you won’t have pumpkin seeds for planting next year! Again, I’m pretty rogue here too. I have a small shelf hanging in my planting space and all seeds just sit there. No further protection from me.
Mostly that works OK and mice and the likes don’t seem to be able to get up there. I do get weevils and insects sometimes, so I like to add dried herb leaves to the seed packets and on the shelves when that happens. Bay, eucalyptus, and rosemary are a good start. I always have some diatomaceous earth spread around the shelves too.