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Hedonisia Hawaii Botanical Plant Inventory

Wild Squash

1) General Info on Wild Squash:

agricultural tourism wild squash

Crookneck squash in Hawaii

  • Location on Property: Garden N
  • Scientific Name:  Cucurbita pepo (Summer squash/Zucchini), C. maxima (True winter), C. pepo(Acorn, delicata, spaghetti) , C. moschata (butternut).
  • Region of Origin: South America
  • General History: The four species of squash belong to the Cucurbitaceae, a flowering plant family commonly known as gourds or cucurbits and including crops like cucumbers, luffas, melons, and watermelons. The family is predominantly distributed around the tropics, where those with edible fruits were among the earliest cultivated plants in both the Old and New Worlds. Wild squash grows hanging from a network of stalks.
  • Most of the plants in this Cucurbitaceae family are annual vines. Many species have large, yellow or white flowers. The stems are hairy and pentangular. Tendrils are present at 90 degrees to the leaf petioles at nodes. (In botany, a tendril is a specialized stem, leaf, or petiole with a threadlike shape that is used by climbing plants for support and attachment, generally by twining around whatever it touches.) Leaves are ex stipulate, alternate, simple palmately lobe or palmately compound. The flowers are unisexual, with male and female flowers usually on different plants (dioecious), or less common on the same plant (monoecious). The female flowers have inferior ovaries. Pepo is another name for this kind of berry. The pepo, derived from an inferior ovary, is characteristic of the Cucurbitaceae.

2) Plant Uses:

As Food:

  • Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit(being the receptacle for the plant‘s seeds), and not a vegetable.
  • Summer squash are high in vitamin Avitamin C, and niacin and winter squash are a good source of iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin C (Herbst 2001). Prepare summer squash by steaming, baking, deep-frying, and sautéing. Prepare winter squash by removing the seeds and baking, steaming, or simmering them (Herbst 2001).
  • In addition to the fruit, other parts of the plant are edible. Squash seeds can be eaten directly, ground into paste, or (particularly for pumpkins) pressed for vegetable oil. The shoots, leaves, and tendrils can be eaten as greens. The blossoms are an important part of Native American cooking with many uses in other parts of the world.

 As Medicine or Other Uses: 

  • Eating squash ensures protection from dehydration during the summer months as the vegetable has high water content.
  • The beta-carotene in squash protects your skin and body from the harmful effects of sun exposure.
  • The low calorie and carbohydrate content of squash makes it a staple food in most weight-loss diets. Squash provides dieters with the nutrients they need without piling on the calories.
  • Some studies show that squash helps relieve symptoms caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
  • Squash also contains coumarins, which prove helpful in the treatment and prevention of some cardiovascular diseases like stroke and ischemic attacks. This is why increasing squash consumption could effectively supplement a health plan of medication, diet and exercise to fight and prevent heart disease.
  • Incorporate squash into your diet to enjoy all of its health benefits. When buying squash choose the ones that are firm and heavy for their size; these will not be dry and cottony inside. Choose squash that has bright and glossy skin without nicks and bruises.

3) Growing Instructions

  • General:  Summer squash can be grown successfully year round in Hawaii as warm weather is required for best growth and production. For minimum risk of crop failure caused by unfavorable weather conditions, it would be best to plant from late spring to the late summer months. Types of summer squash that most commonly grow in Hawaii are Zucchini, Summer Crookneck, Early Straightneck, White Scallop, and Cocozelle. Any of the varieties or hybrids listed for each type will grow well in Hawaii.
  • Sunlight Requirements: Full sun, a warm climate, and protection from wind.

Soil Requirements: 

You can grow squashes on a wide variety of soil types but it will do best on a medium-textured soil. Good yields can be produced on lighter and heavier soils if they are properly managed. Basic requirements are that the soil be well drained and well supplied with organic matter. Squashes grow best at a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Manure or compost at the rate of 10 to 20 pounds per 100 square feet will improve the soil condition and fertility. Improve drainage by working the soil to break up any hard pan. Work the compost and manure into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. If nematodes are present, fumigate after soil preparation and allow 2 to 3 weeks before planting.

  • Propagation: When planting the wild squash it can grows like a weed. Distance between rows should be from 3 to 4 feet, and distance between plants within the row should be from 24 to 30 inches. Plant seeds directly into the seedbed at a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch.
  • Best time to Harvest: Summer squashes usually produce fruit ready for harvest 50 to 60 days after planting. Pick fruits an immature stage when the flesh and skin are tender and succulent. The squash fruit grows rapidly, so daily or every other day harvest is necessary. The length of harvest will depend on plant vigor and freedom from disease.

Difficulties with this plant: 

Diseases most commonly affecting squash production are damping-off, nematodes, powdery mildew, and mosaic viruses.  Damping-off and nematodes can be controlled by the use of captan-terrachlor soil treatment for damping-off. Use nematicide fumigation for nematodes, or by planting it in clean soil.

  • The melon fly is probably the most destructive insect of the squash. The adult female oviposits eggs in the stem and young fruits. The developing larvae feed on the surrounding plant tissue and may kill the plant and destroy the fruit. The use of regular spray programs and bagging of young fruit with brown Kraft bags soon after pollination may help control melon fly damage. Squashes are dependent upon bees for pollination. As insecticides are toxic to honey bees, try to use eco measures to control insects.
  • Controlling Spread: Vines are easy to cut down.

History of this Plant at Hedonisia: /

Recipes:

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