Share this Post
The Making of the Delicata Seed
To see the process of seed production, in which a seed gives you fruits and those fruits give you extra seeds for the next generation, is one of the most amazing journeys you can go on as a gardener or lover of the natural world. It is nature’s most beautiful and complete cycle. As a seed company and seed producer, we watch this process unfold in front of our eyes time and time again. Somehow, it’s never less remarkable or beautiful than the first time. I wonder, is this how delivery nurses feel when they bring a baby into the world?
Where does Delicata squash come from? Delicata squash is a winter squash in the Cucurbita pepo family. It is believed to have been introduced into mainstream gardening by Peter Henderson & Company of New York in 1894. The squash was popular for its sweet flavor and thin skin. During the Great Depression, Delicata fell out of fashion as new hybrids hit the market.
Thankfully, due to the work of chefs and the increasing number of gardeners, Delicata has made a big comeback as growers and cooks are drawn to its flavor, yield, and thin skin. We carry this squash because it’s such an easy crop to grow, grows great even in our hot summers, and produces tons of squash you can enjoy all winter long.
How is a pack of Delicata squash seed “born?”
The seed production process for Delicata squash is long and not for the faint of heart!
First, we must find high-quality, disease-free stock seed which we can use to plant out our trials. Seed trials happen on both our urban farm and rural farm. Trialing allows us to assess the plant for vigor, disease resistance, flavor, growth habit, and uniformity. If the plant meets our strict requirements, we must produce the seed.
We plant seeds on our Ramona farm for seed production. It can be a crazy puzzle to decide what to plant and when. We must consider plant population, weather timing, cross-pollination, harvest time, and plant spacing for seed production. It’s a lot to keep in mind!
We constantly monitor our crops for “off types” during the growing process. These plants display weakness, lousy genetics, or are different from the desired plant look or growth habit. We must take them out of the field and destroy them to keep them from crossing with the other plants. This is essential for a crop like a squash since they are dioecious (having male and female flowers), allowing for lots of cross-pollination.
After the plant is grown, rogued, and harvested, the work of processing begins!
We must separate the seeds from the plant, which can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Because of the size of our company and our lack of highly specialized machines, we often harvest the seeds by hand; this means hours of sitting and scooping seeds out of squash fruit!
After the seed is extracted, cleaned, and dried, we do seed lot testing. We test for various diseases, germination rates, and vigor. If, and only if, the seed passes all these steps, then we must package the seed!
As you can see, seed production is not for the faint of heart and takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and love! From all of us at SDSC, thank you for helping us make this possible!