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Garden Journal

All naked seeded pumpkins need warm soil to germinate

By Paul Barbano | Mar 19, 2014
All naked seeded pumpkins need warm soil to germinate.

What are jaybirds and why are they naked? Our phrase “Naked as a jaybird” became popular after 1943, and actually was from an 1870s Shropshire phrase “naked as a robin.” As if naked birds weren't bad enough, there's more nudity in the garden, naked hulled pumpkins. Naked seeded pumpkins are grown not for their stringy flesh, but for their seeds. Unlike other squash or pumpkin seeds, naked seeded pumpkin seeds don't have the hard coating and can be eaten whole. Famous in Mexican cooking, called pepita from Mexican Spanish: pepita de calabaza, "little seed of squash," these crunchy snacks are high in protein and a good source of iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and potassium.

All varieties of pepita or naked seeded pumpkins are Cucurbita pepo. Even though all pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere naked seeded pumpkins are very popular in Russia, the Ukraine and Austria, especially the Styrian region of Austria.

Yerevan Squash from Baker Creek (2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704) and Richter's (800-668-4372 or 905-640-6677) is a beautiful squash from Armenia. Much larger than Lady Godiva, the Yerevan Squash is a golden orange rough-skinned fruit with ribs like a true pumpkin.

The variety Lady Godiva is a stunning green-and-yellow striped oblong fruit that weighs five to 12 pounds.

Kakai is a Japanese colorful small pumpkin with orange and green stripes. Each pumpkin has large raised ribs, making for a stunning table display. Kakai grows two or three fruits on semi-bush plants that save space in the garden.

This is a hardy producer that does well even in poor soil. Kakai is available from many seed companies including Johnny's Seeds (www.Johnnyseeds.com).

All of the hull less or naked seeded pumpkins need warm soil to germinate. Do not plant outdoors until your garden soil temperature reaches 60 degrees. Pumpkins do best with a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.5, and pH 6.5 is ideal.

It's easiest to direct sow naked seeded pumpkins right in the garden, but you can also start them indoors as transplants. Choose a sunny spot that hasn't grown vine crops in the past two or three years.

Many gardeners grow pumpkins in hills or mounds in groups of four or five seeds. Plant the seeds one or two inches deep and space the mounds or hills two to three feet apart.

You can mulch with straw. Pumpkins need steady water, but not soggy ground.

To harvest your seeds, let the fruit ripen fully. Dig out the seeds and rinse under running water to remove the fibers. To help digestion, soak the seeds overnight in salted water, drain and pat dry.

You can eat the seeds raw, but roasting adds a lot of flavor. Roast the seeds in the oven at 250 degrees or lower, being careful they do not burn. Roast the seeds until crispy, but do not overcook.

Although the flesh of seedless pumpkins is usually stringy and bland it can be used as livestock feed.

Mixed with eggs, milk and enough sugar you can add the flesh to any quick bread or pumpkin pie recipe.

About the only difficult thing about growing specialty crops like naked seeded pumpkins may be finding seeds. Order early so you aren't disappointed. Planning is everything in gardening, and that is the naked truth.

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