Tag Archives: seed

Waimea Gold

A brief note to update you all on a new variety I am breeding for Hawaii.  It is called “Waimea Gold,” and it is growing beautifully here.  I have crossed two strong landraces, then inter planted with other c. moschatas that were performing well. I allowed them to again cross, and now I am hand pollinating and selecting traits.  This last step is currently going on, and it will be part of the stabilization process.

The result is a market variety that is beginning to show up at some of our farmer’s markets, and the chefs have been serving them up too.  I have given seed to two local farmers that are growing them already. They have noted that it just “wants to grow” which is exactly what we need.  No fuss. But I will be doing a bit of fussing in the months ahead, as I continue to stabilize the traits.

For those of you interested in plant/squash breeding, here are the traits that I am selecting for:  Small size (3-4lb max), smooth, easy to peel, versatility in flavor profile (can be used in a wide variety of dishes,) pest and disease resistance (especially powdery mildew and pickleworm,) and best of all it is a contender to give the imported bland little kabochas a run for their money.  Tasty and local…not to mention kinda cute.  Here are the current photos! The green ties on the stem mark that the pumpkin blooms were hand pollinated for seed purity. So Waimea….let’s hope we have struck gold!

Proud to Represent Hawaii

Hawaii often gets left out of many agricultural events.  People often ask me why.  It is simple: fruit flies.  They have made our exporting of produce difficult for the last 100 years.  With that being said, they have also made it the most challenging place to grow many otherwise common vegetables.  Marketing has showcased pineapple and sugar, two plantation crops that are uneffected by these pests. But we are not so proud to note that every year, new agricultural pests erode what small food production we have in the Hawaiian islands. When asked why I didn’t bring squash to the expo, other growers just shake their heads.  Those who have been around a while usually say, “oh fruit fly? Lucky you are growing anything at all.”  They are right.

It is for that exact reason that I began researching, and later breeding squash for Hawaii, and other areas with tropical fruit flies, and the newer introduction, Pickle Worm.  When California gets an invasion of fruit flies, they sound the alarms.  When Hawaii gets a new pest, it barely makes the news.  Another one, is not what any of us need.  But they continue to come in every year.  That is one of the many downsides of importing over 90% of your food.  It leaves the door open for pests from around the world to enter the islands.  Don’t believe me, try talking to someone from Australia.  We have many of the same issues.  I had more than one person ask for my squash at the National Heirloom Expo last year, I had to direct them to the images on my booth,  often the response was, “couldn’t you smuggle one in?”  I know they meant well, wanting me to represent my breeding and farming efforts with the real thing, but the very last thing I want to do is destroy California agriculture so that I can have something to show.  I explained the magnitude of what one selfish act could do.

But after having so many inquiries, I just thought my way through the situation.  Though I could not bring squash into California, or anywhere else in the US, I could get seed through. I wanted to collect more research data, as I entered year 4 of my farm’s independent research for squash in Hawaii.  It was brought to my attention, that maybe I should include it in the Baker Creek squash trials.  I will be telling that story at a later time, but for now, I just wanted to share the very good news that the Hawaiian Black Kabocha not only survived, but it produced in a very different environment, and surrounded by all new pests, and squash virus.  Why does this matter?  It matters in many more reasons other than having a squash in the line up at the expo.  It is another potential solution for islands and areas suffering from both fruit fly and drought.  It can be a solution for the food production efforts of other places.  The labors of one can help many.  After the expo I received an angered email that noted how self-centered my actions were.  Now, it was time for me to shake my head, knowing in my heart, he couldn’t be further from the truth. So Hawaii, this was for you.  Mahalo nui loa for the dozens of top ranked chefs who taught me the nuances of flavor, so that I could be a better informed squash breeder.  Because it is simple, if I am going to be breeding for pest resistance, I may as well breed for excellence in flavor and texture as well.  Hit that ball out of the park for all of us.

So here she is sitting pretty in the line up.  Only a Hawaii grower knows how much that means to get her there.

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Three Ultra Rare Squash Grown for Seed

Yervian, c.pepo, Armenia (top) Gori Blue Mottled, c. maxima, Gori, Republic of Georgia, central Asia (bottom left) Moon like squash, c.maxima, Uganda, Africa (bottom right)
Yervian, c.pepo, Armenia (top) Gori Blue Mottled, c. maxima, Gori, Republic of Georgia, Europe (bottom left) Moon like squash, c.maxima, Uganda, Africa (bottom right)

It was a tough Winter for these rare beauties, but these are some of the success stories from the first season of seed saving ultra rare squash from around the world.three rare

These are part of an effort to save some of the world’s rare food crops from extinction.

Pick the Right Variety

To answer some very valid questions that people have asked me about GMOs in Hawaii.  Yes, GMO squash cross pollinates, and yes it would wipe out what I do. But to look for a solution to squash growing here in Hawaii is to look at the track record of squash varieties. The reason farmers are failing with squash is that they are planting within the family Pepo which is not hearty to any pest, nor to any disease.  Pepo gets absolutely slammed with every disease here, and every pest, so that is why so much spray is normally associated with squash here in the islands. Plant the right varieties, namely family moschata, and your problems are reduced exponentially, and no sprays needed…and bomboocha sized squash are created.