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
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.
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
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.
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.