September 1, 2018

Wild squash species (Cucurbita sp. div.)

There exists about 27 species in genus Cucurbita – all are origin from Americas. Only 5 species is widely cultivated as edible plants. Bellow I am describing my experiences with growing 4 wild and 1 semi-wild species:
Wild Winter Squash (Cucurbita andreana, syn. C. maxima subsp. andreana) is native to Argentina and Uruguay. It is very similar in appearance to C. maxima but all its parts are smaller (including flowers and fruits). The flesh of fruits is thin and bitter but seeds are edible. It can be easily cultivated in north temperate areas. Seeds should be sown after frost outside in direct place. It can easily hybridize with C. maxima varieties.
I grew the forms with yellow-orange and pale-yellow flowers
The fruits are quite small
The flesh is bitter
But seeds are edible and tasty
Wild Ozark's Gourd (Cucurbita pepo subs. texana var. ozarkana) is native in the Greater Mississippi Valley and Ozark Plateau in USA. This is close cousin of pumpkins (C. pepo subsp. pepo). It creates small, eggs-like fruits, also bitter but with edible seeds. It can be easily cultivated in northern areas.
A male flower
Young fruit
An almost mature fruit
There not exists wild forms of Musk Squash (Cucurbita moschata) but I met a semi-wild form. It is medium size climber or creeper which creates large flowers and medium size (about golf ball size) striped, orange-brown fruits with thin flesh, thin flesh (non bitter) and relatively large (larger than in case of other wild species) seeds. Very easy to growing and interesting plant.
A male flower
Young fruit
Ripe fruits
A cutted fruit
The seeds are not very small
... and the flesh is very thin - such semi-wild species
I had not success with Wild Silver-seed Squash (Cucurbita sororia, syn. C. argyrosperma subsp. sororia) - plants grew healthy but have not flowered (they created flower buds but frost was faster). I would like to try with it again.

A seedling
Male flower bud
Female flower bud
The last species which I am describing is Buffalo Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima). It is other plant than the rest – it is frost hardy perennial which can easily survive an average winter in zone 6b (in mulched even 5b/6a). Its leaves have characteristic smell - like a figwort (Scrophularia spp.). The rootstock is very large, thick and long. It is native to southern USA and to Central America. It grows well in temperate areas but does not want to flower. It much depends from genes – some forms grows very fast and in first years attain several meter long shoots and other grows slowly. The seeds of this species do not want germinate if sown outside in May (as other squashes) and should be sown first inside in pots.

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