Multi-generation hybridizing

AltitoOctober 9, 2012

People often say not to plant seeds from veggies bought in the store because I can end up with unwanted fruit. Why do people say this, and why don't more people try to cross breed veggies through multiple generations to see what sort of crazy veggies we can come up with?

For example: lets say, one year i grow 4 different kinds of gourds.... pumpkin, spaghitti squash, zucchini, and acorn squash. This year i cross-breed pumpkin/zucchini and acorn/spaghetti. next year I plant and cross-breed between the pumpini and spaghetticorn squash. what sorts of exciting veggies would develop on the third year? Is a puzughetticorn squash even possible? Why don't i hear more of this sort of thing happening?

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Hi Altito,

"Why don't I hear more of this sort of thing happening?"

Commercial breeders want to keep their methods as trade secrets. Many vegetable growers are organic gardeners, and organic gardening is just beginning to accept hybrids. In previous decades, organic gardeners were just as rabidly against hybrids as they are today against GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

"People often say not to plant seeds from veggies bought in the store because I can end up with unwanted fruit."

You might. Most are hybrids, and hybrids don't "come true" from seed.

"...let's say, one year I grow 4 different kinds of gourds.... pumpkin, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and acorn squash. This year I cross-breed pumpkin/zucchini and acorn/spaghetti."

I'm not sure all those things are cross-able. But in case they are, there are six ways you can cross four things (or twelve ways, if you distinguish between which is the male and which is the female), and there is no reason not to try all twelve ways the first year. That gives you a very rich selection of possibilities for the next year.

"...why don't more people try to cross breed veggies through multiple generations to see what sort of crazy veggies we can come up with?"

There is a lot of misperception, misinformation, and disinformation about saving seeds from hybrids or making crosses between hybrids. Rose breeders have been making hybrids between hybrids between hybrids, and so on, for many generations, and getting spectacular results. But they select their best specimens from fields of seedlings.

As an amateur zinnia breeder, I follow the same methods, but with only a few thousand zinnias within my capability. Despite my limitations as a zinnia hobbyist, I continue to get encouraging results, and my zinnia beds next year will be nearly double the size of this year's zinnia beds.

Only a small percentage of the multi-hybrid seedlings are "keepers" and thousands of seedlings don't "make the cut" and are discarded. Most amateur vegetable breeders don't have the space or budget to grow the large numbers of seedlings needed to find those spectacular breakthroughs.

Back to that "keeping it a secret" thing, I had no idea that anybody was working on a seedless tomato until I opened my mailbox a few years ago and found a Burpee catalog with a seedless tomato on the cover. I bought a packet (containing ten seeds, as I recall) and they became my favorite tomato.

Now I hope they will develop a tomato with solid flesh all the way through. The current seedless tomatoes have empty seed cavities, which could just as well be filled with tomato flesh, instead of tomato juice. I have seen pictures of tomatoes that had solid flesh all the way through, so I know that is possible.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 7:20PM
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There was the time my gourds crossed with my neighbors summer squash which was inedible . He saved squash seed and we saved gourd seed we both grew the same useless inedible tri-colored gourd .
Another time I grew a number of types of tomatoes all of which crossed with a neighbors better-boy tomatoes that he had been selecting for generations . He selected the 3 biggest tomatoes from the previous years harvest and got yellow , ox-heart , and red varieties as well as some that were pointed on the bottom . he saved none from that season and switched to Burpee's delicious the next year .
By all means cross breed you might come up with something special . good luck

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:33PM
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what made this inedible? if 2 edible squashes came together, why would an indeible squash follow? When people say "nasty" or something along these lines, is this fussiness? or is it a truly repulsive vegetable?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 8:52PM
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mauch1(z6b PA)

Your crossings could yield something interesting. Note that there are 4 species within what we call squash.

They are:
Curcubita mixta
C. maxima
C. moschata
C. pepo

C. mixta doesn't have many varieties in this country (Cushaw squash)
C. moschata has a few varieties the main one being the butternut squash.

The two species with the most varieties in this country are C. pepo and C. maxima. Maxima has the 'big' squash such as "Hubbard" or "Atlantic Giant".

C. pepo has a lot of varieties such as summer squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash.

So you could cross acorn, spaghetti, and zucchini. Pumpkins are often C. pepo, but "pumpkin" is a generic term that can be any of the squash's that are roundish and usually orange. ("Atlantic Giant" and "Big Max" are C. maxima). So depending on what variety of pumpkin you've got, it may or may not cross with the others.

I had a friend who planted both spaghetti and pumpkin one year. The next year from unharvested squash they got a variety - Pumpkins that were like spaghetti squash inside, other squash more like pumpkins inside. They called them generically "squmpkins"

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:16AM
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