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HORT410 - Vegetable Crops

Squash, Pumpkins & Gourds - Notes

  • Common names: squashes, pumpkins and gourds.
  • Latin names: predominantly of the genus Cucurbita; including Cucurbita pepo L., Cucurbita maxima Duch. ex Lam, and Cucurbita moschata Duch. ex Lam.
  • Family name: Cucurbitaceae [Cucurbitaceae Images].
  • Closely related to cucumber, muskmelon and watermelon.
  • Dicotyledons.
  • All are annuals.
  • Warm season species, frost-susceptible; all have a growing temperature optimum of between 18 and 24 C.
  • Pollinated by bees.
  • Origin: South America; cultivation had spread throughout the Americas by the time the first Europeans arrived.
  • Squash history (TAMU).
  • Summer squash history (TAMU).
  • Harvested organ: fruit.
  • Squashes are categorized as either summer or winter varieties.
  • Most summer varieties are classified as Cucurbita pepo; have relatively small fruits eaten immature (some within 50 days after planting).
  • Popular varieties of summer squash are zucchini, yellow crookneck, and scallop squashes. Scallop squashes are harvested at approximately 7.5 to 10 cm in diameter, while elongated fruits are harvested at less than 17 cm in length, and below 5 to 7 cm in diameter.
  • Fruit of summer squashes can be stored for approximately 1 week at 7 to 10 C at a high relative humidity (90 to 95%).
  • Winter varieties of squash generally fall into the Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo classifications.
  • Winter varieties of squash are eaten when mature; growing season usually requires 3 to 4 months.
  • The mature fruit of winter squash has a hard outer skin and can be stored at moderate temperatures (10 - 13 C) at a relative humidity of 70 to 75% for several months.
  • Hubbard, spaghetti, butternut, banana and acorn are popular varieties of winter squash.
  • Hubbard and banana squashes are members of the species Cucurbita maxima, butternut squashes are members of the species Cucurbita moschata, and spaghetti and acorn squashes are members of the species Cucurbita pepo.
  • The name squash is often interchanged with that of pumpkin. Most varieties that are called pumpkin bear orange fruit, have very long vines, and have stems that are firmer, more rigid, and squarer than those of other squashes.
  • The most common pumpkins are varieties of Cucurbita pepo.
  • The large-fruited pumpkins, weighing up to 400 lb, belong to the species Cucurbita maxima.
  • Gourds are used primarily for decoration, although some hard-shelled varieties are turned into drinking cups.
  • Gourds are harvested in the fall and waxed or varnished for preservation.
  • The yellow-flowered gourd, Cucurbita pepo, the most common American type, produces small, smooth or knobby fruits in several shapes and colors.
  • Bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl.), may reach a length of 1.5 m and are used in India as sounding boxes for certain musical instruments.
  • Luffa aegyptiaca Mill. (the smooth loofah) has a fibrous interior that can be used like a sponge for scrubbing and cleaning.
  • Other gourds include, the fig-leaved gourd (Cucurbita ficifolia Bouche), the chayote gourd (Sechium edule (Jacq.) Swartz), the bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.) and the ornamental, wax (Benincasa hispida (Thunb.) Cogn.), Okeechobee, and cucuzzi gourds.
  • Gourds are cultivated much as are pumpkin or squash.
  • Major diseases of squash and pumpkin in the Midwest:
  • Major insect pests of squash and pumpkin in the Midwest:
  • Care should be taken in applying pesticides that are toxic to honey bees during flowering as this can decrease pollination and fruit set.

    (see: ID-56: Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2003 - Squash and Pumpkin (PURDUE) [pdf] for information on squash and pumpkin varieties, spacing, seeding, fertilizing, and disease, weed and insect control recommendations for the Midwest)

    Sources of information:

  • Brust, G., Palumbo, J., York, A., Wilson, R.L. Squash and pumpkins. In "Vegetable Insect Management With Emphasis on the Midwest" (ed. R. Foster, B. Flood), Meister Publishing Co., Willoughby, Ohio, pp. 169-178 (1995).
  • Nonnecke, I.L. "Vegetable Production", Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY (1989).
  • Phillips, R., Rix, M. "The Random House Book of Vegetables", Random House, NY (1993).
  • Lorenz, O.A. Squash and gourd. In "The Software Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia", Version 1.5, Grolier, Inc. (1992).
  • Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers, ID-56, eds. R. Foster, D. Egel, E. Maynard, R. Weinzierl, H. Taber, L.W. Jett, B. Hutchinson, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, 2003.
  • Raj, N.M., Prasanna, K.P., Peter, K.V. Ash gourd, Benincasa hispida (Thunb.) Cogn. In "Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops", (ed. G. Kalloo, B.O. Bergh), Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., pp. 235-246 (1993).
  • Kalloo, G. Bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl. In "Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops", (ed. G. Kalloo, B.O. Bergh), Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., pp. 247-249 (1993).
  • Som, M.G., Maity, T.K., Hara, P. Pointed gourd, Trichosanthes dioica Roxb. In "Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops", (ed. G. Kalloo, B.O. Bergh), Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., pp. 251-258 (1993).
  • Raj, N.M., Prasanna, K.P., Peter, K.V. Snake gourd Trichosanthes anguina L. In "Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops", (ed. G. Kalloo, B.O. Bergh), Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., pp. 259-264 (1993).
  • Kalloo, G. Loofah, Luffa spp. In "Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops", (ed. G. Kalloo, B.O. Bergh), Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., pp. 265-266 (1993).
  • Desai, U.T., Musmade, A.M. Pumpkins, squashes, and gourds. In "Handbook of Vegetable Science and Technology: Production, Composition, Storage, and Processing", (ed. D.K. Salunkhe, S.S. Kadam), Marcel Dekker, Inc., NY, pp. 273-297 (1998).

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  • David Rhodes
    Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
    Horticulture Building
    625 Agriculture Mall Drive
    Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
    Last Update: 01/07/08