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Play with your veg!

Illustration of a spaghetti pumpkin

Cross-pollination is a wonderful thing © Jo Strange

You know your mother always told you not to play with your food?

Well she was WRONG.

Ok, maybe she was right when it came to mushing up your peas with a tonne of tomato sauce (eww, please tell me you don’t still do that), but when it comes to growing your own food, I’d stick your fingers in your ears and sing “La! La! La! Can’t hear you Mum…”

The thing about growing vegetables is we’ve been told there are rules and procedures and cross-pollination is a big, big no-no. However, many of the varieties we have today owe their lives to those brave horticultural pioneers of the past (e.g. John Veitch (horticulturist)W – more about him another time), who tirelessly crossed numerous plants to get better colour, flavour, texture etc.

Today we call these ‘heritage’ varieties, which implies a tinge of warmy fuzziness, but actually means that they’re quite capable of reproducing themselves again and again for our delight with only the help of our humble bumble-bee friends (assuming we collect the seeds to sow again each year). And occasionally you get a gem from those cheeky bees cross-pollinating your flowers to create a whole new level of vegetable growing excitement!

This happened to me a couple of years back. I really love spaghetti squash, but was particularly fond of the orange F1 variety ‘Hasta La Pasta. In 2009 I grew my ‘Hasta La Pasta’ in the same bed as some Cheyenne Pumpkins. I saved the seed from one of those pumpkins to sow in 2010. When I split open the pumpkin at the end of the season, I was surprised to find that I had Spaghetti Pumpkins! How fantastic is that?

Mini pumpkins starting to grow

Pumpkins - but are they Spaghetti?

Needless to say, I took further seeds from those spaghetti pumpkins last year and have sowed them this year. The plants are already growing mini pumpkins, but will they come true with spaghetti?

If you take just one thing away from this post, it’s that you should experiment more and have fun with what you grow. Having a garden shouldn’t be a chore, so the next time you’re faced with the horticultural purists in your life, tell them that you’re a mad vegetable scientist and that experimenting and playing with your veg. is a lot more fun than just following the text books.

Many thanks to Jo Strange for the fantastic illustration that heads this post. You really ought to check out Jo’s blog. It’s awesome…

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