Nothing says “October” like a grinning jack-’o-lantern on the front porch — and nothing says “messy” like carving it. But don’t throw away that goop just yet. Wayne County Extension Agent Jessica Strickland has a few tips for saving pumpkin seeds that will have you saying “bless this mess.”
1. Save seeds for a purpose.
Few people grow their own pumpkins, but it has become a game for those that take on the challenge. While some raise pumpkins for competitions, others simply enjoy the thrill of watching a rare or heirloom variety pop up in their backyard. Either way, Strickland notes that it is important to do your research before saving those extra seeds. If you want to grow massive, award-winning pumpkins, look for varieties with a good track record and keep your eyes peeled for the biggest seeds. If you prefer rare pumpkins, make sure you know what variety you want and what its seeds look like.
2. Shop the catalogs.
Pumpkins come in all different sizes, shades, and colors, so be sure to browse the seed catalog. “Plus, there’s always something in the pipelines for something new and different,” Strickland says. If your goal is to grow the biggest pumpkin at the county fair, test different varieties until you’ve won the blue ribbon. If you prefer a unique shape or color, check for rare varieties until you find your next favorite.
3. Contain the mess.
When it comes to actually carving pumpkins and collecting seeds, avoid spreading a stringy mess all over the house by placing a colander in the sink and carefully scoop the “guts” into it. Pulling the pulp with your fingers will loosen the strands and the water will help separate the seeds.
4. Weed out the bad seeds.
Good seeds are orange-tinted and free of blemishes, Strickland says. If you find shriveled or wrinkled seeds with dark and moldy spots, discard them. If you’re unsure, press the seed between your fingers. If it feels hollow, discard it. Larger seeds have a better chance of germinating, so it’s safe to toss any seeds that look significantly smaller.
5. Saving could be your saving grace.
If you find yourself with a surplus of seeds and no desire to start an industrial pumpkin patch, don’t fret. Saving more than you need could turn the year of the great pumpkin shortage into the year of the Great Pumpkin if some of your stock refuses to grow in the future. If you still feel overwhelmed, it’s safe to store extra seeds for a few years, but “every year you store them, the chances of germination reduce,” Strickland says.
6. Dry ’em out.
Be smart as you prepare to stash your seeds. “Avoid humidity at all costs,” Strickland says. As moisture increases around seeds, the chances of germination decrease and chances of molding increases. Dry your clean seeds by spreading them in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with waxed papers or paper towels, avoiding any clumps. Place the sheet by a window and stir every couple of days. After one to two weeks, your seeds are ready for storage. Strickland recommends any place that is cool and dry.
7. Keep storage simple.
There’s no need for fancy containers. Strickland recommends storing seeds in an envelope, paper bag, or Ziploc bag. These will keep your seeds safe until you are ready to plant them. If you’re pressed for shed space, stash them in the fridge or freezer. Just make sure to label and date the container.
8. Treat yourself.
If there are still more seeds left over, reward all of your hard work with a tasty treat. Spread your remaining pumpkin seeds in a thin layer on a baking sheet, sprinkle with your favorite spices, and roast them in the oven. For a snack that feels more authentically Southern, bake up some cornbread and top it with a tangy pumpkin Chow Chow.
Have more questions? Contact the NC Cooperative Extension of Wayne County:
(919) 731-1521 or wayne.ces.ncsu.edu