How to Save Pumpkin Seeds: Step-by-Step Instructions

A pile of raw pumpkin seeds with some orange pulp.

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Overview
  • Working Time: 30 minutes - 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 week
  • Yield: 100+ seeds
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Pumpkin seeds are large and relatively easy to harvest, and saving the seeds for future gardening requires just a few extra steps. During pumpkin season when you're getting ready to bake pies, or on Halloween when you’re carving Jack O'Lanterns, scoop out the pumpkin seeds and save them to plant for next year’s crop

Choose a pumpkin that looks ripe and shapely—essentially your ideal pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin from a plant that is an heirloom or open-pollinated and not a hybrid. Seeds from hybrid plants won’t produce offspring that are genetically similar to the parent plant, while seeds from open-pollinated plants will. Using seeds from an open-pollinated plant will ensure that you’re growing the best pumpkin possible.

Treehugger Tip

Pumpkins easily cross-pollinate with other pumpkins and squash. So even if your pumpkin seeds are from an open-pollinated plant, you may not be able to completely control how your final product will look (unless you have no other pumpkin or squash in your garden). Increase your chances of getting true-breeding seeds by saving seeds from at least three of your best pumpkins.

What You'll Need

  • Large spoon
  • Knife
  • Strainer
  • Cookie sheet
  • Paper towels, paper plates, or waxed paper
  • Envelope

Ingredients

  • 1 pumpkin

Instructions

  1. Scoop Out the Seeds

    Pumpkin with seeds spilling out.

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    Use a sharp knife to carefully cut open your pumpkin by cutting a circle around the stem. If you're not using your pumpkin for decorative purposes, you can also just cut it in half for easier access. Then, dig in with your spoon and scoop out all the seeds and place them in your strainer. Don’t worry about getting pulp mixed in with the seeds; you’ll separate them in the next step.

  2. Rinse and Strain Seeds

    Rinse the pumpkin seeds in the strainer under cool, running water to get rid of the pulp. Some pulp will be stubborn and stick to the seeds, so you may need to use your hands to rub it off completely. The end goal is to have clean seeds without any orange residue.

  3. Lay Seeds on a Cookie Sheet

    Prepare your cookie sheet by placing a layer of paper towels, paper plates, or waxed paper on top. Then, dump your clean pumpkin seeds onto the sheet in a single layer, breaking up any clumps of seeds. Keeping individual seeds separate will help them dry completely.

  4. Let Them Dry

    Set the cookie sheet with seeds aside in a cool, dry area to allow the seeds to fully dry. The drying process should take about a week, but the total time will vary depending on how cool and dry your space is.

  5. Keep an Eye on Your Seeds

    Keep an eye on your seeds until they are all completely dry. Stir them at least once a day and flip seeds over to allow them to dry on both sides. Break up any clumps that form and continue allowing them to dry in a cool, dry area.

    If mold appears, you likely don’t have a cool or dry enough storage spot and need to move them to save the non-molded seeds.

  6. Store in Envelope

    Pumpkin seeds in small envelope.

    cheche22 / Getty Images

    You’ll know your seeds are completely dry once they’re white in color on all sides and they feel papery. Place the dry seeds into a sealable envelope, label it with the date and the pumpkin variety, and store the seeds in a cool, dry place until it’s time to plant them.

Storing Saved Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds will germinate at 60 F, so avoid storing your saved seeds in an area that will exceed this temperature at any point. If needed, you can store your seeds in your refrigerator in an airtight container. Stored in a cool, dry place, dried pumpkin seeds can successfully last one year.

If you save seeds from a large pumpkin or two, you’ll likely have many more seeds than you need for next year’s garden. There could be hundreds of seeds in each one. Save your extras to roast in the oven for a delicious (and nutritious) crunchy snack.

Why Save Your Pumpkin Seeds?

Most commercial seed producers use harsh chemicals to grow their crops, which can contaminate the soil and water and poison ecosystems. Gas-guzzling trucks then carry the processed seeds, which often come with unnecessary packaging that ends up in the trash, in order to get them into your hands.

If you save the seeds from produce grown in your own garden, you can omit these eco-unfriendly practices to rely on simpler ones.