Thursday, 9 December 2010

This Is Not Pumpkin Soup And I Am Some Pissed

And do you know why it isn't pumpkin soup?

I nurtured these pumpkins all year; first planting them as seeds in little peat pots so their roots would not be disturbed when we planted them out, then keeping them under lights, then planting them in a compost-enriched bed with a little aluminum foil collar around the stem to keep the cut-worms away, then hours spent weeding and watering, then finally collecting them and storing them carefully in the furnace room to keep them coolish and dry. A lot of effort went into those pumpkins.

And then today I trudged out into the snow to buy the other ingredients I needed to make soup. I washed my pumpkins, and cut them in half. I was a little surprised at how narrow the band of flesh was, and it seemed pale. I put this down to our summer drought though, and proceeded. I pulled out all the seeds and gunk, I rubbed them with a little oil, I roasted them until tender. Then, once they had cooled, I went to peel off the skins and put the flesh into the food-processor to purée it.


The flesh was stringy; stringy like spaghetti squash. I tasted some. It had practically no flavour beyond a slight bitterness.


I am not going to name names here. Mainly because this is the 4th batch of impure seed from this summer, from 4 different suppliers ranging from the very large to the very small, from the long-established to the very new. But you can bet I will be sending this post to all 4 companies. We got 2 batches of bad peas and my favourite slicing tomato was not my favourite slicing tomato. And that's just the stuff I can tell. I wonder how many other things that we were growing for the first time were not actually what they were supposed to be? (There were a few other tomatoes that had crossed, but this was seed we saved ourselves, and we have no-one to blame but our own inexperienced selves for those.)

It's been a while since I've done much gardening, but I just don't remember having anything like this many problems when we were gardening in an allotment garden. True; we didn't grow as many different vegetables. Still, we did have a garden for 4 or 5 years and I just don't remember anything turning out not as advertised. Possibly we were lucky. But possibly with the surge of interest in home gardening seed suppliers are getting careless.

So, all you gardeners out there: what has been your experience - in the past and this year - with your vegetable seeds? I've been hearing rumours of other gardeners who have been having problems with unexpected and undesirable crosses in their purchased seeds. Let's hear about it. What seed, and if you don't mind, where you got it.

*Or, if you want to get technical, hybrid seeds. But in this case the phrase that comes to mind is not "hybrid vigour". It's "mongrel". BAH HUMBUG!


Mr. H. said...

That is really too bad, how very frustrating. We have also had many issues over the years with our purchased seeds not being what they were supposed to be and the biggest issue has been bad germination.

Trust me, this is a problem with most seed companies from time to time. So far the only seed company I have not had any issues with is Ed Hume. We get our favorite small sugar pumpkins from them.

Of course now that I have said that I'm sure I will have some issues with them too.:) The worst company for us has always been Baker Creek and I only buy my Yellow of Parma onions from them at this point because I can't find them anywhere else.

DarleneN said...

I too have had a problem.....specifically with spaghetti squash seeds......I contacted the seller - willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and they suggested it was just a small defect in the strain....apparently no one else had the problem and suggested I plant the same ones next year because it shouldn't happen again.....but it did! I had a spaghetti squash that looked like a watermelon on the outside - stayed mottled green and never ripened - but still stringy on the inside - but not nearly as much flavour and doesn't keep at all......

DarleneN said...

SHould also say - love your blog....sorry to hear that you have had this problem too!

mamaloo said...

Perhaps it's time to ditch the seed companies and get into seed exchange communities. Even here in Hamilton I was pleasantly surprised at the interesting seeds that were shared at a seed exchange. Plus, seed saving of your own.

I'm really not a gardener, but I think, as with everything else, if you want quality and to tap into the traditional, you need to go with grass roots (no pun intended).

I'm glad you are following up with the companies. The more people follow up, the liklier it is that the companies will return to their former quality.

Phiddy said...

Wow... didn't know this could happen. I haven't ever had this happen to me.
What I do, is seed save from year to year. Then I know exactly what I will grow.

Ferdzy said...

Mr. H, interesting. Being Canadian I buy from other companies. It does occur to me that when I was last gardening I got most of my seeds from William Dam - a long-established mid-sized family-owned company here in Ontario. I had no problems with their seed this year either. Looks like I should continue to make them my first choice.

DarleneN, sorry to hear about your troubles. Sorry also to hear you got a pile of non-compostable bullshit from the supplier. Note we are both having problems with types of cucurbita pepo - a large and promiscuous family of squashes. It's pretty clear that my pumpkins daddy was a spaghetti squash.

Mamaloo, we do plan to save a bunch of our own seed. But you have to start with seed from somewhere and there's a lot more to saving seed than just, well, saving the seeds. A lot of things cross, including things like peas and beans and tomatoes, which all the experts say rarely cross. Ha ha.

Phiddy, as you are starting to see it is a very common problem. If you are saving seed without problems it is probably because you are growing only one type of each vegetable, or if you have more than one type you have been lucky. The more varieties you have and the closer you pack them together the more likely you are to get crosses. Some things cross easier than others, and some things won't cross at all. There's a long, steep learning curve before anyone can successfully and regularly save seeds from a wide variety of vegetables.

Tillsonburgarian said...

Did anybody had any experience with Johnny’s Select Seeds ( They have some great Asian veggie seeds that I am interested in. It seems to me that they sell mostly to market farms and lot of seeds are F1 hybrids so collecting seeds from your crop is out of question. I just don’t see them selling impure seeds to business, lawsuits and all that. Anybody bought from them?

Mr. H. said...

Jerry - The few times I have ordered from Johnny's I have recieved good quality seed. They even have a neat little blog of sorts at -

Ferdzy said...

I haven't ordered seed from Johnny's but I have certainly had good reports of them.

Something to keep in mind with ordering seeds from the U.S. though; usually (ah say USUALLY) you will get them with no trouble but once in a while you will lose at customs roulette and get dinged with duty and brokerage fees almost certainly in excess of the value of the seeds. Only has happened to me once or twice, but it definitely discourages me from ordering from the States.

Tillsonburgarian said...

Thanks Mr H. It is indeed nice blog.
Ferdzy, I know exactly what you mean. Been there, done that… However, I sort of have to take chance since I didn’t find anybody here that has the seeds for some of the Oriental veggies, not even Agro Haitai out in Lynden, just west of Hamilton (

Kevin Kossowan said...

I can't say I've run into this per se, but I also may have written it off as a poor year for that cultivar when it was in fact a seed problem?

I order from Johnny's, and haven't had the customs issue, but am not surprised you have. Ordering over the border sucks. Free trade, right?

Simeon (Sam) George Drakich said...

The pumpkin was old had the same problem.