Cucurbita - Pumpkin, Squash
DESCRIPTION: This is a group of popular, annual climbing or trailing plants that belong to the Cucumber family, Cucurbitaceae.
The first one that will be described is the Pumpkin. No Halloween or Thanksgiving would be complete without the beautiful, glowing orange Pumpkins that signal the harvest season and the drawing near of winter. Two different varieties will be described below; C. pepo, the popular small- to medium-size Pumpkins that are used to make jack-o'-lanterns or pies, and C. maxima, which is really a giant variety of winter Squash usually grown for the "biggest Pumpkin" contests.
C. pepo (Pumpkin) - Jack-o'-lantern and sugar Pumpkins grow on sprawling, prostrate vines with prickly stems and leafstalks and huge, lobed, triangular leaves. These Pumpkins are closely related to several kinds of Squash. The usually weigh from 2 to 20 pounds, rarely more. Some miniature varieties only weigh 1 or 2 pounds. Besides those being grown for decoration or for their edible flesh, are "naked-seeded" varieties, which have hull-less, edible seeds.
C. maxima (Mammoth Pumpkin) - These Pumpkins are closely related to Hubbard and other winter Squashes. The prostrate, annual vines are clothed with blunt, round or heart-shaped leaves and yellow flowers. The fruits are huge and pinkish-orange or grayish and usually pear-shaped, often bulging where they touch the ground.
Squashes are generally divided into two groups. One group is the Summer Squash, which have soft skins and are eaten when young. The other group is the Winter Squash; these can be stored in the winter because they have hard, protective shells. These are all warm-weather, annual vines with large, lobed foliage and yellow blossoms.
Summer Squash (C. pepo) - There is a wide variety of shapes and sizes in this group. Included are the following: Smooth, yellow straightnecks; warty, yellow crooknecks; slender, medium to dark green, club-shaped Zucchini with golden-yellow varieties; smooth-skinned variously shaped fruits called vegetable marrows; and white or green, top- or disk-shaped scallop or patty pan Squashes with scalloped rims. Their isn't much difference in the flavors of the varieties, but there is some difference in the texture of the cooked flesh. Vegetable marrows are eaten, often along with the blossoms, when very young.
Winter Squash (C. pepo, c. maxima & C. moschata) - The 3 species in this group cover a large range of sizes, shapes and flavors. C. maxima has large, long, Banana Squashes in pink, bluish gray or orange. Buttercup is medium-sized, dark green, drum- or top-shaped, and blotched with gray. Boston marrow may be medium to large, bulbous, orange-skinned and shaped like a teardrop. Turk's turban has green, turban-shaped fruits that are brightly striped with red, white, or orange and a "naval" at the blossom end. Hubbard is medium-sized, green, blue-gray, or golden, with bumpy skin. C. moschata includes the tan-skinned Butternut Squash, these are long, cylindrical fruits with a bulbous base and orange interior. Cushaws resemble large, striped Butternut Squash with curved necks. C. pepo includes the small- to medium-sized Acorn Squash, which are deeply ribbed, dark green or golden colored. The Vegetable Spaghetti Squash also belongs to this group. These oval, smooth fruits are ivory to golden-yellow colored and their flesh cooks to spaghetti-like strands.
POTTING: Pumpkins and Squashes are grown in the same ways. They should be spaced 4 feet apart in full sun, in soil that is fairly light. They won't do well in heavy, clayey, wet ground. The soil should be very fertile, but since the plants are spaced so far apart, the manure or compost and fertilizer should be concentrated in the space that the plants will occupy and the immediate surroundings, rather than spreading it throughout the entire garden. These plants are susceptible to damage from a variety of pests and diseases. While the plants are young, spun-bonded plastic row covers and large squares of aluminum foil are used to ward off vine borers, squash bugs and beetles.
Pumpkin - Pumpkins are frost-tender annuals. These small- to medium-sized Pumpkins won't grow larger even if they're grown under the best conditions, but they will become more numerous. Pumpkins should be harvested before frost. Make sure to leave a 3-inch piece of stem attached to the fruit and handle them carefully. Store them in a cool, dry place.
Mammoth Pumpkin - When these Pumpkins are to be entered in a contest, the plants are hand-pollinated to hasten the production of fruit. When two fruits are produced, all subsequent blossoms are removed. Once the fruits are safely on their way to maturity, one is sacrificed to force full concentration of energy into developing one huge Pumpkin, which will grow to 100 lbs. or more.
Summer Squash - All Squashes are grown in the same way. They are frost-tender, heat-resistant, vigorous annuals. Summer Squashes are usually harvested when young and tender. Cut off the stems with a sharp knife or needle-nose pruning shears. They are the best tasting when 4 to 6 inches long. The hard-skinned, mature fruits will store for a few weeks, but aren't as good. The skin can be tested with your thumbnail; hard skins indicate that it is past due, but they are good if you scoop out the seeds and peel the fruit.
Winter Squash -. Winter Squashes need a lot of room to grow. They should be set 4 feet apart, in rows 10 to 15 feet apart. In the South, Winter Squash can be planted in late summer, but diseases and pests can be really bad in early fall. Winter Squash should be harvest before frost. A 3-inch piece of stem should be left on the Squash. Handle them with care and don't wash or brush them. They should be stored in a cool, dry place do they donít shrivel and lose weight. In the South, spring-planted Winter Squash is usually harvested in late summer.
PROPAGATION: Seeds are planted outside at about the frost-free date. Black plastic mulch should be used in cool climates and straw or dried grass clippings elsewhere. Two or three plantings of fast-maturing kinds of the Summer Squash can be made during the summer; only one planting of Winter Squash may be made.
Pumpkin - Jack o' lantern: Spirit (AAS); Cinderella Bush; Jack O' Lantern; Jackpot; Howden. Small pie: Small Sugar; New England Pie; Spookie. Miniature: Jack Be Little; Sweetie Pie. Naked-seeded: Triple Treat; Lady Godiva.
Mammoth Pumpkin - Show King; Big Max; Big Moon; Hungarian Mammoth (gray or bluish gray); Atlantic.
Summer Squash - Straightneck: Early Prolific (AAS); Seneca Prolific; Goldbar; Butterstick; Park's Creamy. Crookneck: Sundance; Tara; Butter Swan. Zucchini: Black Magic; Gold Rush (AAS); Black Satin; Blackjack; Eldorado; Elite; Gourmet Globe; Green Magic. Vegetable marrow: Kuta; Cousa; Cocozelle; White Bush Hybrid. Scallop or patty pan: Peter Pan Hybrid (AAS); Yellow Bush Scallop; Scallopini (AAS); Sunburst (AAS).
Winter Squash - Buttercup: Sweet Mama (AAS); Buttercup Improved; Kindred. Butternut: Early Butternut Hybrid (AAS); Waltham Butternut; Burpee's Butterbush; Hercules (large). Acorn: Jersey Golden Acorn (AAS); Table Queen; Table King (AAS); Ponca (early). Hubbard: Green Hubbard; Golden Delicious; Baby Hubbard; Baby Blue. Banana: Jumbo Pink. Cushaw: Green Striped Cushaw; Golden Nugget (AAS).
Baby Boo Pumpkin
Butter Boy Hybrid Squash
Vegetable Spaghetti Squash
Buttercup Winter Squash
Lakota Winter Squash
Saffron Prolific Squash
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