Saving seeds from squash

How to Save Spaghetti Squash Seeds


Spaghetti squash is an extremely popular winter squash variety. Many gardeners and their families love this unique veggie that, when cooked, can be scraped into pasta-like filaments, perfect with any type of sauce. Like all winter squash, these must be allowed to ripen on the vine, and this is doubly important if you are planning to harvest the seeds for future planting. But saving spaghetti squash seeds for planting isn’t always a good idea, depending on the type of squash you are growing.

How to Plant Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is called a winter squash, but if you sow the seeds in winter, you won’t see much action. Winter squash are given the name because it stores well, lasting into the winter, not because it likes a snowy garden plot. Start the seeds for spaghetti squash in spring after the last frost. You can start growing spaghetti squash indoors even earlier if you like, then transplant the seedlings to the garden when the soil is warmed to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

These are big, spreading vine plants, so it isn’t practical to consider growing spaghetti squash in containers unless they are large. Usually, spaghetti squash is planted in hills some 3 feet apart, or every 4 feet in rows 7 feet apart. Plant three seeds for every one plant you want, then thin to the strongest seedling. The squash will require a consistently damp soil to germinate. Once the plants have settled in, give them an inch of water a week to keep those vines growing and producing the pretty squash blossoms.

When Is Spaghetti Squash Ripe?

You can eat spaghetti squash only if it ripens on the vine. Unlike many vegetables, winter squash won’t mature after it’s been harvested. Allowing the squash to ripen fully is also important if you want to use the seeds to sow the following spring. You aren’t likely to have success planting spaghetti squash seeds if the veggies are immature when harvested. So, that makes it important to know when to harvest spaghetti squash.

Generally, spaghetti squash requires 100 days from planting through harvest. The variety you select may take longer or shorter, so consult the packaging. This figure will give you a rough approximation of when your squash will be ripe. Other ways to determine ripeness are color and firmness. Ripe spaghetti squash is a dull gold, so don’t pick squash that is gray or green. Another good test is to try to get a fingernail into the skin. If you can, it’s not ripe yet.

Saving Squash Seeds for Next Year

Saving seeds from your own garden makes sense, since they are free. But note that the seeds of a plant are the result of pollination and not the exact replica of the parent plant. So as long as you plant classic or heirloom spaghetti squash, and the blossoms are pollinated by another spaghetti squash blossom in the same patch, you are set. However, if you grew your squash from hybrid seeds, you cannot count on the seeds producing squash similar to the parent.

Harvesting the Seeds

Since spaghetti squash seeds grow inside the squash, they are covered with pulp and must be cleaned before you store them. Scoop out seeds from a fully ripe squash into a bucket. Add about the same amount of warm water as seeds and pulp and mix it around. Then let the mixture sit in a cool spot for up to a week, swirling it daily, until the viable seeds settle at the bottom of the bucket. Pour out the floating seeds and pulp.

The seeds at the bottom are viable, so rinse them well, then allow them to dry thoroughly on paper towels or a screen. Once they are dry, move them into a glass jar, then keep them in a dark, cool spot until you are ready to plant in spring.

Winter Squash: Saving Seed

Winter squash has harder skin than summer squash does; its flesh is firmer too and so needs to cook longer. The seeds are fully developed when the squash is ready to eat, whereas summer squash needs to be left on the vine well past the eating stage to complete the development of its seed.

Understanding Pollination

Before you try to save seeds from your winter squash, it’s important to understand the way they become pollinated.

Winter squashes, along with all cucurbits, are cross-pollinated. This means that they have both distinct male and distinct female flowers. They rely on insects to pollinate them. Because of this, it is easy for two varieties of winter squash to cross-pollinate and produce seeds that will not grow out true to their parent. Winter squash may cross-pollinate with summer squash, zucchini, and pumpkins as they are all the same species. However, don’t worry about this if you are just interested in getting winter squash for eating. Any crossing will not affect that year’s fruit, only the seeds.

If you want to save your own winter squash seeds, only grow one type of squash in the garden. Another possibility is to hand-pollinate your flowers to prevent cross-pollination but this can be quite complicated. In order to do this, growers put small bags over the flowers and manually do the work of pollinating to keep the seeds pure. We recommend that only advanced seed savers take on this complex project.

Saving The Seeds

Harvest the winter squash as you would normally for winter storage. Allow the squash to sit for after-ripening for at least 3-6 weeks up to several months.

Wash the seeds to remove any flesh and strings. Cure the seeds by laying them out in a single layer on a paper towel to dry. Store them this way in a place that is dry and out of direct sunlight. Once thoroughly dried, in 3 to 7 days, store them in an envelope in a cool dry place with the rest of your seed supply. Dried winter squash seeds will store up to 6 years if kept in cool, dry conditions.

Pumpkin seeds in particular are delicious as a snack. Check out this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Seeds.

Learn more about seed saving here.


Gardening Tips Gardening heirloom seed seed saving squash storage

Grow and Save Squash Seeds

How to Grow Squash

There are four species of domesticated squash that are commonly grown in gardens: winter squash, pumpkin, summer squash, and gourds. All four species are essentially cultivated in the same manner but members of the different species will not cross with one another, allowing a seed saver to grow multiple squash species at the same time.

Time of Planting

Sow seeds outdoors after danger of frost has passed in the spring, or start from seed indoors and transplant out in the spring.

Spacing Requirements

Create 12 inch diameter hills 6 feet apart. Plant 6-8 seeds per hill and later thin to 3-4 plants per hill. Sow seeds 1 inch deep.

Time to Germination

5-10 days

Special Considerations

When growing squash for seed, hand-pollination is recommended.

Common Pests and Diseases

Common pests include aphids and slugs. Common diseases include powdery mildew, downy mildew, and cucumber mosaic virus. Watch plants carefully for signs of this virus – yellow mottling, puckering of leaves, and rotting fruit, and remove plants from the garden. Do not place infected plants in the compost pile that you use for your garden. Aphids can carry the virus, so you may want to consider pest control methods to control aphids in the garden.

When and How to Harvest

As there are four different species in the squash family, harvest time varies by species and variety. Yellow squash and zucchini should be cut with a knife or pruners, leaving about ½-1 inch of stalk on the fruit. Other types of squash, like pumpkins and gourds, can be harvested when the stem turns brown. Stems can be twisted off or cut.


Squash has diverse culinary uses. Pumpkins are used to make pies and their seeds can be roasted. Zucchini and yellow squash are often incorporated into stir fry recipes and omelets, and butternut squash (and others) can be used in soups.


Zucchini and yellow squash will last a week or more in the refrigerator, whereas the squash with thicker, harder skin can last significantly longer – up to several months, depending on the species.

How to Save Squash Seeds

There are four species of domesticated squash that are commonly grown in gardens. All four species have the same mating system and are essentially cultivated in the same manner when grown for seed. However, generally a seed saver can grow one variety of each species for seed without worrying about crossing.

Life Cycle


Recommended Isolation Distance

Separate varieties by 800 feet to ½ mile.

Recommended Population Sizes

To ensure viable seeds, save seeds from at least 1 plant. When maintaining a variety over many generations, save seeds from 5 – 10 plants. If you’re saving seeds for genetic preservation of a rare variety, save seeds from 25 plants or more.

Assessing Seed Maturity

At seed maturity, summer squash will be much larger than their market-mature size, and they typically undergo a color change. Fruits are ready to harvest when the rind is too hard to dent with a fingernail and the stem is dry. Winter squash are typically mature when fruits are normally harvested for eating: after they change color and fruit stems are dry.


All types of squash benefit from a period of post-harvest ripening during which the seeds continue to mature. Fruits are typically held for at least 20 days beyond fruit maturity before their seeds are extracted. Although they can further ripen on the vine, squash are susceptible to diseases and sunscald, and it is generally recommended that fruits be harvested and moved to a shady location or indoors for post-harvest ripening. Commercial seed growers process winter squash after 20 days, but seeds can be extracted from squash later in the winter instead, when the fruits are used for cooking.

Cleaning and Processing

To remove squash seeds from the fruits, simply split the squash in half by shallowly cutting through the rind from top to bottom on both sides and separating the two halves. Cutting through the center of the fruit can damage seeds. Next, scoop out the seeds, massaging them free from the pulp as much as possible. Transfer them to a wide-mesh strainer—or any other container with openings large enough for pulp and strings to pass through—for rinsing.Running the seeds under a strong stream of water will help dislodge the seeds from the pulp. When working with varieties whose seeds are hard to separate from the pulp, soaking the seeds for a few hours can facilitate cleaning. Large screens made from quarter-inch hardware cloth work well for cleaning and rinsing big batches of seeds. Immediately after cleaning, rinsed seeds should be spread out to dry in a thin layer on screens, if possible.

Decanting can be a good way to separate viable seeds from lightweight and underdeveloped seeds. Decanting simply means pouring out the mixture of water, pulp, and immature seeds off the top of the liquid, while keeping the mature, viable seeds at the bottom of the glass. This method is only effective for some types of squash because even the viable seeds of many varieties will float, rather than sink. Alternatively, winnowing can help separate lightweight and underdeveloped seeds once the seeds are dry.

When fruits are processed individually – such as when winter squash seeds are extracted as a meal is prepared – the seeds should be cleaned and then mixed in and stored with seeds of other fruits from the same planting, in order to maintain the genetic diversity of the seed crop.

Storage and Viability

When stored under cool, dry conditions, squash seeds can be expected to remain viable for six years.

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Saving Summer Squash Seeds

Before saving summer squash seeds, you’ll first need to make sure you are dealing with an open-pollinated or non-hybrid variety, otherwise known as an heirloom. If you save seeds from a hybrid variety and replant them, you likely won’t get any squash. Most of the time, the result is a lush plant that doesn’t produce. If it does produce fruit, you probably won’t be happy with the size or quality. One of the more common heirloom varieties of summer squash is Early Prolific, which is a straightneck yellow squash. Another favorite is Yellow Scallop Squash, which is a patty pan variety. There are several other heirloom summer squash varieties available from many different seed companies and catalogs.

Once you know you have an heirloom variety, the next step is to harvest the seeds. When saving summer squash seeds, it’s best to wait for the squash to fully mature and then some before you remove it from the vine. Typically, if you are harvesting seeds from a squash, you want it to be over-ripe, to the point where it is soft and mostly inedible. The reason for this is that you want the seeds to be fully developed and mature. Most of the time the seeds you find in a perfectly ripe squash are still a bit immature. When summer squash are past their prime, their skin starts to shrivel and turn leathery – this is the perfect stage to harvest the seeds.

Once you have an over-ripe heirloom summer squash, cut it open and scoop out the seeds and put them in an empty bowl. Using your fingers, remove most of the pulp from the seeds. Then, fill up the bowl with water and let the seeds settle for a few minutes. The healthy, viable seeds will sink to the bottom and the dead seeds and most of the pulp will float to the surface. When the seeds and pulp have separated themselves, use a slotted spoon to remove the dead seeds and pulp. Then you can put the good seeds on a paper towel to drain. Once most of the moisture is off, the seeds should be creamy white and ready for drying.

The next step in saving summer squash seeds is to dry them out a bit. There’s a couple of ways you can do this. We’ve found the easiest way is in a conventional oven. First, spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven, close the door and turn on the oven light. DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN. The ambient heat from the light is enough to dry out the seeds in about 36-48 hours. When they are dried enough, the seeds will be harder, more brittle and they’ll have shrunk a little bit. You can then put the seeds inside an envelope and store them in a jar in your refrigerator. Make sure you label the envelope so you know what seeds it contains. If you are saving lots of different seeds, several envelopes can fit inside one, quart-sized jar. It’s also a good idea to put a tablespoon of dry rice at the bottom of the jar just to absorb any moisture.
You can also save summer squash seeds by using a food dehydrator. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on the dehydrator tray. Depending on the model, you may need to put the seeds on foil so they don’t fall through the trays. Drying times vary depending on the dehydrator model, but the seeds are usually dry enough in a day or two. The key is to use the lowest available setting and keep the seeds as far away from the heat source as possible.

A third option for saving summer squash seeds is just letting them air dry. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet or foil and put them in a dry place, preferably away from the humidity of a kitchen. In most cases, the seeds will dry out enough in a few days. Again, you want them to harden up and shrink a little bit.
Click on the following links to learn more about growing summer squash.

How to Roast Squash Seeds ~ five ways!

How to Roast Perfectly Crisp Squash Seeds ~ the secret to super crisp and delicious roasted winter squash seeds is simple and oh so easy…I’ll show you how to make five different varieties and five different flavors!

Have you ever grabbed a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds, maybe at a friend’s house, and popped them in your mouth, expecting something wonderfully crunchy and delicious, only to find yourself gnawing endlessly on the wooden shells and madly trying to figure out how to ‘dispose’ of them politely? Been there and done that and that’s why I’ve never been a fan of the stuff…that is, until I figured out the secret.

The secret to the most amazing roasted pumpkin seeds? That’s easy, nix the pumpkin.

That’s right, pumpkin seeds are just too tough to roast successfully, so the next time you’re carving a jack-o-lantern, I suggest tossing those seeds. (The little green seeds called pepitas are the inner kernels of pumpkin seeds, and they are fabulous. But the full-on pumpkin seed? Not so much.)

Turns out other types of winter squash have much better seeds for roasting, like the delicata, above, or the butternut, below. Their seeds are smaller, and so much more tender and flavorful that those cardboard pumpkin seeds. Once I came to grips with this reality, I began experimenting with other types of squash seeds and that’s where all the deliciousness begins. I started with the seeds of 2 acorn squash. I sliced the squash in half and removed the seeds, see my detailed instructions for removing and cleaning seeds below.

I roasted up a selection for you, just to prove my point. I gave every one a different flavor profile, too. But that’s just the beginning, you can roast any winter squash seed and use any spice or herb flavoring you like. The possibilities are mind boggling!

The seeds:

  • acorn (with olive oil and salt)
  • butternut (with olive oil, fennel seed and salt)
  • delicata (olive oil, coriander seeds, curry powder and salt)
  • spaghetti squash (olive oil, red chili flakes, and salt)
  • kabocha (allspice, cardamom, and cloves)

The method:

  • 350F oven.
  • @1 tsp oil per 1/2 cup seeds ~ salt and spices to taste.
  • 15-20 minutes, or until you start to hear them ‘pop’.
  • Let cool on pan, they’ll crisp as they cool.
  • enjoy.

My personal favorites were the acorn seeds ~ they were ultra crisp and so delicious, with just a hint of salt. But really all of them were wonderful, with one exception…the kabocha seeds were tougher than the others. It figures, because they’re also larger. If you’re a pumpkin seed lover and don’t mind the extra chewing required, you’ll love the kabocha, too.

How to easily remove and clean winter squash seeds ~

  • Cut your squash in half. Use your hands to pull out the seeds into a large bowl Try to squeeze the seeds out, leaving as much of the pulp behind as you can. There are pockets of seeds in the cavities of squash, so be sure to root around in the corners.
  • Fill the bowl with cold water and use your hands to squish the seeds together to remove the slimy pulp. The seeds will rise to the surface. Skim them off and spread them out to dry,
  • If pulp is stubborn, try putting the seeds in a strainer and using your kitchen sprayer to loosen it.
  • Turn the seeds out onto a clean absorbent dishcloth and pat them dry.
  • Don’t worry about a little of the pulp sticking to the nuts, it won’t hurt anything.

How do I use my seeds once they’re roasted?

I love to serve them in little bowls as a healthy snack, or an appetizer with wine, beer, or cocktails. They’re addictive, and the minute somebody pops a few in their mouth, their snacking hand will go on autopilot. but I also use them in fall salads for a bit of crunch, just like you would use nuts or croutons. They also make the best garnish for cozy fall soups. Sometimes I’ll add them to my granola or trail mix recipes, too.

How to Roast Perfectly Crisp Squash Seeds Rate this recipe 127 ratings

Category: Appetizer, Fall, Healthy, Thanksgiving, Vegan, Vegetarian


    acorn squash seeds

  • 1/2 cup acorn squash seeds, cleaned and dried
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt to taste (start with 1/4 tsp)
    butternut squash seeds

  • 1/2 cup butternut squash seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • salt to taste (start with 1/4 tsp)
    delicata squash seeds

  • 1/2 cup delicata squash seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • salt to taste (start with 1/4 tsp)
    spaghetti squash seeds

  • 1/2 cup spaghetti squash seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • salt to taste (start with 1/4 tsp)
    kabocha squash seeds

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves


  1. set oven to 350F
  2. Toss the seeds with the oil and the appropriate seasonings in a small bowl. Make sure to get all the seeds evenly coated.
  3. Spread the seeds out on a dry baking sheet, making sure they’re in a single layer.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they turn golden and start to pop. I like to stir them around once or twice during the cooking to rearrange them so they cook evenly. Note: some seeds do not pop, so if they’ve turned golden after 20 minutes, they’re done.
  5. Let cool on the baking sheet and then you can put them in a bowl for serving. Add more salt or seasonings to taste.

6.3.4 *Recipe from All images and content are copyright protected. If you want to use this recipe, please link back to this page.

Make it your own ~

  • You can completely leave out the oil and toast the seeds dry, if you like. The only problem is that the seasonings won’t stick to the seeds, so they will have to be plain. I found they were delicious this way, too!

Squash (Summer and Winter) Growing and Seed Saving Tips

Growing Tips

Summer and winter squash grow best in nutrient rich soil and in full sun. It is common to plant squash in soil hills (4-5 seeds per hill is ideal). Plant after the last frost.
Squash flowers are insect-pollinated and can be crossed easily within species. Therefore, when planning to save seed, it is important to take measures to preserve seed integrity. We recommend either ensuring about a mile between varieties, or using a hand pollination technique to preserve the integrity of your squash seeds. See below for instructions on hand pollination. (Kohala Center)
Hand pollination:
1) Cap or bag female and male flower buds on the same plant and nearby plants of the same variety.
2) When male flowers bloom, turn over their petals to expose anthers and gently roll the anthers over the stigma of the bloomed female flowers. You should see a layer of pollen on the stigma.
3) Cap or bag female flowers again to keep out insects. Mark female flowers using a piece of string or similar marker.

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