If you’re growing squash (be it summer or winter), you’re likely growing some Cucurbita pepo squash.
Cucurbita pepo is one of the 3 squash species most commonly found on market gardens.
Pepos are a motley crew.
Delicata, Spaghetti, Acorn, Zucchini, Pie Pumpkins, Jack o’Lanterns, Patty Pans, Crooknecks, and Sweet Dumplings are all Pepos. Not to mention a number of ornamental gourds.
What these squash do have in common is a 5 sided stem.
They are also pretty much at peak flavour at harvest. They don’t need much curing (if any) to release the sweetness. In fact, as Pepos age, they tend to get blander.
Pepos are great autumn squash. By mid-winter, not much flavour left.
And yes, Cucurbita pepo are CROSSERS.
If you grow more than one Pepo within a 1200ft radius and you save their seed, in the next generation you will get some Spaghatta, Pumpkinis, and maybe a few Zumpkins. The closer your Pepos were to each other when you saved seed, the more crossed up Squash you will get the following year.
These crosses are generally edible, they just might not be what you’re looking for. And until you taste them, you won’t know how fibrous, sweet, or dry they might be. You won’t know their storage life. Or whether they are best as immature summer squash or cured squash.
It is very hard to sell much mystery squash.
So, unless you only want to grow 1 pepo at a time, I do not recommend Pepo squash for beginning #seedsavingformarketgrowers.
The PROS of saving Pepo Squash seed:
- Very easy to extract the seed
- Easy to grow extra in your market garden and choose the best for seed
- There are some great open pollinated varieties
- Annual – from seed to seed in 1 season
The CONS of saving Pepo Squash seed:
- You probably have more than 1 pepo in your garden
- Crossers gonna cross
4 lbs to 11 lbs from a 100ft bed
4 to 6 years
2 thoughts on “Meet The Motley Pepo Squash Crew”
An important caution regarding squash VOLUNTEERS!
I have heard this same scenario from a seed breeder, Joseph Lofthouse, Who specializes in deep genetic crossing of heirlooms. A fair lesson for anyone guiding folks learning to garden! Teaches new gardeners importance of questioning ideas, concepts and volunteer plants!
(Why I encourage plant markers by Your Seeds planted and /OR compost thoroughly heated to avoid volunteer Squash.**)
From Mike Hoag Ă˘â‚¬Ëś Permaculture landscape transformation via transformative adventures on FacebookĂ˘â‚¬Â¦ regarding volunteer squash seedlings:
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Ă˘â‚¬Â¦moschatas and maximas, no problem. Even if they have crossed the crosses are likely to be good and certain to be edible. The worst that could happen is when they Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“rogueĂ˘â‚¬Âť (cross with another typeĂ˘â‚¬Âť) they get increased vigor and can produce HUGE squash, that have too much water so they are less sweet. Pepo squash (summer squash, zukes, acorns, etc.) can actually get poisonous and make your hair fall out. Ă°Ĺ¸ËśÂ® There is a bittering gene in the pepos that easily returns if they go off type, and they can produce toxic cucurbitacins. Pepo cultivation is all about breeding the bitter gene out. In some cases squash may taste edible, but make your hair fall out. In others, they will be safe but super bitter. DonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t eat volunteer pepos.
Denise Miller I know, sounds too weird to be true, but toxic squash syndrome is a real thing! This was previously thought to come from crosses with wild species of squash family plants, but recent research has found that just crosses between pepos can in some cases result in the return of the suppressed bitterness gene. It was in a surprisingly high number of crosses from what I remember. There was actually a controversy a few years back because it had gotten into the American seed stock for delicats for one of the big seed companies and was showing up in a lot of commercial delicata seeds! (I was told by someone familiar with this that the industry appears to have resolved that issue.) More commonly, the texture will just be watery, the flavor bitter and the flesh stringy. But in some cases, they could make us a bit sick, or even cause weird symptoms like hair falling out. Again, moschatas and maximas do not have this gene so the crosses are safe for us to play with.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Maybe not such a bad thing for cooks to know who use fresh garden produce.
** from personal experience and Toxification & years researching multiple herbicideĂ˘â‚¬Ëśs effects, especially on our gut biome, seems wise not to add another mystery plant that could set off a syndrome!
Thanks for this information. I hadn’t heard about this.