One of my new squash varieties, the Cucuzzi Squash, has really put on a lot of growth. I tried growing this squash last year but it did not do well. The seeds were slow to sprout and the plants did not seem to recover from the struggle of germination. This year I had better success with germination. It was fast and almost 80%. Then the new plants put on growth just a little slower than the other squash varieties growing with it.
This morning while making my rounds in the gardens I saw two flowers on the Cucuzzi. They are staminate but when I looked more closely at the vines I could see many small pistillate flowers forming. Pistillate flowers are the ones that will become fruit if pollinated by the staminate flower. That’s where the bees come in and there were plenty of them out and about, too.
Although it is called a squash Cucuzzi is really an edible variety of the birdhouse gourd Lagenaria siceraria. The fruits are elongate and are eaten when between eight and ten inches long. They can be cooked like summer squash. Allowed to grow larger they will become huge bean pod-shaped gourds.
There have been reports of toxic reactions to Cucuzzi so I think on my first meal I ‘ll just take a few bites. The toxic compounds are called cucurbitacins which are triterpenoids found in all squash, melons, and cucumbers and give these fruits a bitter taste. Cucuzzi that are overly ripe or stressed from bad weather will contain more cucurbitacins that normal and will taste very bitter. The cucurbitacins are not without benefits and have been investigated as possible treatments for cancer especially one called Cucurbitacin E. I’ve been eating squash and cucumbers for a long time with no side effects so I think that this squash/gourd on the menu will be just fine.