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Understanding the Effects of Pollen Transfer Between Different Vegetables

Category Vegetables
This is a guide about understanding the effects of pollen transfer between different vegetables. When pollen is shared with similar varieties of plants, they can cross to be a hybrid.
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August 24, 2016

In July 2015, I submitted a rather lengthy post titled 'Do Different Vegetables "Cross"?

To me, this is a serious question posed by well meaning people and deserves a detailed answer. Before giving my answer, I did more research than I have ever done before on a ThriftyFun post.

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Armed with much information from experts in different fields, I was able to answer the question with an emphatic 'No'. Also, I was able to give detailed information as to why my answer was 'No'.

Here is an excerpt (in my own words) from that post:

"Sorry, people. Things like this just do not happen. Planting squash near cucumbers will not cause them to cross pollinate or taste differently than they should".

Notice the words 'taste differently'.

This year, for the first time in my life, I planted cucumbers in containers next to the containers in which I planted watermelons. For the first time in my life, many of the watermelons I tasted, tasted more like a cucumber than a watermelon. The flesh of these strange tasting watermelons was not red, more the color between watermelon and cucumber.

This year, for the first time in my life, I planted red watermelons in containers beside the containers in which I planted Yellow Doll watermelons. When harvested, some of the watermelons were red, some were yellow, some were a combination of red and yellow. I did not plant any seed that should have yielded a watermelon with a combination of colors.

What have I learned from this? First, planting cucumbers close to watermelons did not result in a 'cross' between the two. None of the watermelon fruit was half way between a watermelon and a cucumber.

Several of the watermelons did have a decidedly cucumber taste. I have to conclude that if pollen from a cucumber is deposited in the flower of a watermelon, while you won't get a hybrid of the two, the taste and color of the watermelon can be significantly altered. I will now believe this until a plant geneticist convinces me otherwise.

Second, when planting red watermelons in close proximity to yellow watermelons, there is a chance of the pollen from one affecting the other. Is the pictured watermelon a naturally occurring 'cross' between a red and yellow watermelon? I think not. Was the resulting fruit of the yellow watermelon somehow affected by pollen from the red watermelon grown next to them? I think 'Yes'.

I am confused more than ever on this subject. I will not spend years studying plant genetics in order to find true answers.

So, even though, in my humble opinion, different vegetables do not normally and naturally cross; the genetic information from one vegetable can somehow, through pollen transfer, affect both taste and appearance of a different vegetable.

The proof is in the picture.

Or is it?

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July 8, 2015

What is the absolute best thing about ThriftyFun? Learning. Learning. Learning. Lately, I've corrected some misinformation posted by others. Don't think me smug, though. I've posted misinformation, too. I've had to eat my own words, apologize, and set things straight. Maybe the next best thing about ThriftyFun is that we keep each other on our toes.

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Here's my latest 'Squash The Myth' entry. 'I planted pintos too close to my pumpkins. They cross pollinated. Now my pumpkins taste like refried beans and when my wife made a pumpkin pie, it gave me gas really bad. I got so tired of the angry stares, I took a long walk in the woods.'

Sorry, people. Things like this just do not happen. Planting squash near cucumbers will not cause them to cross pollinate or taste differently than they should. Even though they are in the same family, Cucurbitaceae, I'm not sure a professional breeder could successfully cross them in a lab.

Pollination is a sophisticated 'lock and key' affair. Think of the pollen receptors on the cucumber plant as locks. Think of the pollen from the squash plant as keys. Unless the pollen from the squash will 'fit' into the pollen receptors of the cucumber, there will be no cross pollination. Cucumbers bear male and female flowers and are self pollinating. In order for a squash to cross pollinate with a cucumber, (if it could be done), special measures would have to be taken to prevent the cucumber from pollinating itself.

With all that said, here's something else just as important. Let's say you want to cross two varieties of tomatoes in order to get a new variety with all the best characteristics of both parents. You don't just take pollen from tomato plant 'B' and pollinate the flowers on tomato plant 'A' and then get tomatoes growing on tomato plant 'A' with characteristics of tomato plant 'B'. It doesn't happen that way.

In order to get the combined characteristics, (including taste), of both parents, you would have to plant the seed from the tomato resulting from cross pollination. It is this seed that holds the combined information, not the tomato that contained that seed.

If your cucumbers taste like squash and are yellow rather than green, it ain't because they were planted close together. Something else is the problem, probably inadequate nutrients.

Pictured above is part of my 2015 early harvest. Due to limited container space, the heirloom straight neck yellow squash and the very delicious Poinsett 76 cucumber were planted close together. They each taste as they should.

(If I'm wrong, enlighten me. I will take it and appreciate it).

Source: My Garden

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