You know the type: you have avocado pits sprouting on the counter, watermelon seeds drying on paper towels, lemon seedlings sprouting on the bathroom windowsill…
Life is full of temptations for seed savers. Every fruit has a pit… Every nature hike has a must-have wildflower… Every trip to a botanical garden, you’re keeping your hands stuffed in your pockets so they don’t “accidentally” pinch a cutting.
But then, fall arrives… and you completely lose it.
Farm stands are loaded with amazing produce containing seeds! Yes seeeeeeeds, precious seeds! The grocery store is stocking winter squash varieties you’ve never seen before. That nice Mennonite family down the road has some crazy birdhouse gourds in a shape you haven’t seen before. There is amazing Indian corn for sale on the roadside. And you’re all over it.
My personal favorite finds are the pumpkin and winter squash, and this is most definitely the season.
The other day I screeched to a halt in our car after passing a roadside stand sporting the craziest pumpkin I’d ever seen for sale. After realizing we weren’t all going to die in a fiery crash, my wife grinned at me and said, “pumpkin?” I nodded and ran before someone else could snag it.
She’s used to this seed-saving madness. I’ve been doing it for so long that if I ever stopped, she’d know I was taken over by an alien space pod.
But I digress.
Since Halloween is almost here and a lot of us will be cutting open pumpkins, let’s cover how to save pumpkin seeds. If you’d like to grow next year’s jack-o’-lanterns yourself or if you’re the type that can’t help but bring home beautiful new varieties from the local farmer’s market, today’s post is for you.
The rains finally let up long enough for me to get back to gardening and filming videos.
On Thursday I posted an update on my vanilla orchids:
Then today, my progress on the little garden beds:
That set of beds is really a mess. I need to clear the rest and I think I’m going to cut the perennial cucumber vines way back and let them regrow. They’re insane.
I have to be careful in those beds, though, as I have multiple good edibles in there which are also perennials. I probably should have stuck to just annuals in those beds; however, it’s one of the few sunny spots where I can get things going and keep an eye on them.
It feels good to be outside and working again. The rain has truly been ridiculous, plus I’ve had a lot of work indoors that has kept me from gardening as much as I should.
Anything going on in your gardens right now? Get some fall crops in yet?
Yesterday my son sold three of his “Bahfeemus Egg” pumpkins/winter squash, but before he did I filmed a video:
Two of the Seminole pumpkin cross vines broke off. This is not good for storage, so we will eat those first; however, they will heal up and keep long enough to age I’m sure. They are just unlikely to keep for months and months.
The white bumpy pumpkin – if delicious – will be the parent of a new line. I’ve never seen a C. moschata that looks like this one. It’s striking and I hope I can stabilize the line.
I am pretty certain this is Bob’s offspring. Now I need to plant the seeds and stabilize the type. Absolutely beautiful. It looks like a cross between the original Bob the Pumpkin and a cheese type. Never seen a C. moshata like this before. If I can get it to produce true-to-type, you may be able to get an original “David The Good” pumpkin in seed stores in a few years.
This is more of an accidental pumpkin than anything else – there was a great type I found, we planted the seeds, somewhere it must have crossed with something cool, and BAM – now we have something neat. If we can keep it!
This is my style of gardening – grow a bunch of varieties each year, save the best performers, then try a new round the next year:
I must say, she’s having better luck with her squash/pumpkins than I’ve been having – but our year isn’t over yet. The vine borers here have been incredible. Locals use Sevin dust to control them but I haven’t done so.
Though I’m no arborist, I have helped my fair share of damaged trees. This hurricane season has broken the limbs and trunks on a lot of beloved trees – and I’d like to see people save the ones they can.
“Thought you might have some insight on how to handle a badly wounded tree. Hurricane Irma ripped my neem trees lower branches off and took a sizeable chunk out of her bark. Should I smear vaseline on the wound and lightly bandage to keep bugs from getting into the tree? How would you handle such a problem? Lost almost all of my bananas, papayas and all the rest of my fruit trees were sadly laying on the ground, looked like they went 10 rounds with Tyson in his prime! We’ve restaked most of our trees, hopefully they’ll make it. Have been working on my fruit forest for a few years now, so it was devastating at first to see the destruction.”
Don’t coat them with anything. Just saw the broken branches/trunks off a little bit below the damage. Make the cuts on a slight diagonal. The trees will heal as they can and put out new growth. When they do, select the best-looking shoots and eliminate the rest. Since they’re a few years old, the root system should give them plenty of strength to regrow.
Irma caused some damage in The Great South Florida Food Forest Project. Fortunately, my sister Christi (Miss Yamfit) was there to help clean up after the damage – and take some pictures I could share here.
Tithonia diversifolia plants were knocked around:
Moringa trees were snapped and stripped:
A chaya shrub was pushed to the ground:
And, worst of all, our beloved acerola cherry was blown over.
This is what it looked like before:
And this is what it looks like now:
The tree was blown to the ground and the trunk partially snapped. Christi called to ask what they could do to save it and I recommended cutting it back to a few feet tall, propping it back up, keeping it watered so it’s not under stress, and praying over it.
The fallen chaya isn’t a big deal, as chaya reproduces easily via cuttings. And the rest of the mess? Well, it doesn’t seem like much compared to Dominica, Puerto Rico, Texas, Barbuda and the many other places where serious storm damage took place.
If you have a busted up tree, prune it back to good wood, prop it up if you can, take really good care of it and hope for the best. Some species will spring right back – others won’t. Time will tell.
This week I came across better cassava varieties than I’ve seen before.
Back in Florida, I grew the cassava I could get. It was a variety I got from my friend Ralph, who in turn had gotten it from some Indians, who I assume brought it in from India at some point.
The plants were tall (often hitting 10′ plus) and took a long time to make roots, which made them a pain to grow in North Florida, though I still grew and harvested them successfully.
It just took two seasons. And man, my voice sounds high in that video! My ex-videographer was always having some weird problems with recording either the audio or the video, though the editing looked cool.
Here I’ve found some better varieties of cassava than I used to have – but I’m still testing. Unfortunately, not all cassava are created equal. I had some that did really lousy for me.
Wait, my voice sounds high in that one too.
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity…
Thus far the best kind I’ve grown is an improved partly red-leafed variety that makes very short plants with large roots even in adverse conditions.
This last week I was able to attend a local agribusiness event. There I saw this:
And I got to taste a variety known as “butter stick,” which is rich, pale yellow and creamy. Even steamed it was delicious and tasted like it had been buttered.
I hope to visit a plant research facility and hunt some down. It was quite good.
Over the years I’ve had mixed results with cassava.
Sometimes it’s tasted quite decent, like a nice, dense potato. Other times it’s been slightly bitter and watery. Cassava used to be my favorite root crop (I speak of it quite highly in my post “Cassava: King of Staples,”) but after multiple experience with so-so roots with lousy flavor, it’s taken a back seat to yams.
Even at the agricultural event, my wife picked up a couple of sweet pudding cups made from local roots for us to eat. At first taste, they were quite nice – but then in crept a bitterness underneath the sugar and spices. I wouldn’t care to eat them again, or to grow whatever variety of cassava they were made from.
I suppose the moral of the story is to keep hunting and improving whenever you can. As I write in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, some varieties will disappoint you whereas others will outshine. Just compare beefsteak tomatoes to Everglades tomato in a Florida garden. You’ll almost always fail on the former whereas the latter just keeps on kicking and producing sweet fruits, sometimes for years.
Looks like I need to dig more beds this next year and see if I can grow some good cassava varieties that are worth eating. Butter Stick was excellent.