Cucuzza squash, Lagenaria siceraria, is an heirloom Italian gourd that produces long, curved, or straight, slender cylindrical vegetables. Also called bottle or Calabash gourd, as the squash matures the skin becomes hard and tough and the vegetable is inedible. However, if harvested while immature, the smooth, pale green squash is edible with a mild, sweet, and subtly nutty flavor, reminiscent of the texture and taste of zucchini.
Growing Cucuzza squash is very similar to growing any other summer squash or gourd. A trellis is essential because the vining plant can reach lengths longer than 10 yards. If you want blemish-free, straight produce, trellising is a must.
|Common Name|| Bottle Gourd, Calabash Gourd, Cucuzza Squash, Zuzza, Suzza melon, and Cucuzzi
|Botanical Name||Lagenaria siceraria|
|Size||Length: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in., Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 16 ft. 0 in.|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil pH||Neutral pH of about 6.5 to 6.8|
|Hardiness Zones||2a - 11 b (USDA)|
|Native Area||Africa, Mediterranean|
How to Plant Cucuzza Squash
Cucuzza squash is planted in the same manner as any melon, cucumber, or pumpkin. Seedlings are nearly impossible to find in a garden center so most are grown from seeds. When the soil is warm and the danger of frost is over, plant seeds about one inch deep and spaced about two feet apart.
The planting site should receive full sun or at least six to eight hours of sun per day. Trellising is required if you want straight, unblemished produce. The vine will be vigorous and continue to grow throughout the summer. The vine will be harmed by frost and the mature gourds should be harvested once the vine is dead.
Cucuzza Squash Plant Care
Cucuzza squash prefers warm soil, full sun, and a relatively long growing period. Depending on your growing area, you may be able to plant as soon as the chance of frost passes and again in June for a second harvest. The vines are prolific growers and need room to grow and spread. Mulching the plants will help conserve moisture and keeps the fruits cleaner if you don't trellis the vines.
Cucuzza squash requires full sun of six to eight hours every day to produce a good harvest.
The soil should be loamy, fertile, and have a neutral pH.
Because Cucuzza squash grows quickly and vigorously, it requires plenty of water for good production especially as summer temperatures rise. The plants require over an inch of moisture per week during peak development.
Temperature and Humidity
Cucuzza squash is a tender annual and easily damaged by frost. Do not plant seed until the soil temperature reaches at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The vines are tolerant of high humidity but not arid conditions unless given sufficient water.
Fertilize with a complete, balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 NPK) at planting and side dress when the vines begin to run. However, too much fertilizer will give you more vines and fewer flowers and fruit.
Cucuzza squash and all gourds are monoecious; they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The white male flowers appear first, usually blooming at night, followed by female flowers. The female flowers have a small gourd shape beneath the petals and stay open for only one day. To increase fruit yield, you can pollinate female flowers using a toothbrush to gather pollen from the male flower.
Types of Cucuzza Squash
Cucuzza squash, Lagenaria siceraria, has no other cultivars or varieties. It is not commercially cultivated and is localized to home gardens and specialty growers. Seeds are often passed along from neighbor to neighbor.
Harvesting Cucuzza Squash
How you harvest Cucuzza squash depends on how you plan to use it.
For eating: Cucuzza squash, leaves, and young shoots are edible and have a mild, sweet, and subtly vegetal flavor. Harvest the squash before it reaches 12 inches in length for the best texture and flavor. Whole, unwashed Cucuzza can be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated, and used within a few days. The squash can also be cut into slices, blanched, and frozen in a freezer bag.
For drying as an ornamental or utilitarian gourd: Harvest the Cucuzza before a hard freeze when the stems are dry and have turned brown. The stems will be tough so use pruning shears, a knife, or scissors to cut the gourd off the vine. Leave an inch or two of stem attached, to help them last longer. Avoid bruising, scratching, or puncturing the fruits.
To cure gourds, start by washing off any soil. Wipe the gourds with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove mold spores, bacteria, and pests. Lay them on a mesh surface to dry. Do not allow the gourds to touch. Turn the gourds regularly to promote even drying. Most will cure in four to six weeks. Once they are completely dry, the gourds will be very lightweight and the seeds will rattle inside. The Lagenaria gourds are considered utilitarian gourds that can be made into birdhouses, dippers, or bottles.
How to Grow Cucuzza Squash in Pots
Follow the same guidelines for soil type, light, and water when growing Cucuzza squash in pots as you would for garden-grown plants. Because container-grown plants dry out more quickly, the squash vine will require more frequent watering. The container must be placed next to a trellis to support the vigorous growth of the vine.
Pruning the Cucuzza squash vine is not recommended because it will greatly reduce fruit production.
Propagating Cucuzza Squash
Cucuzza squash is best grown from seed planted at the start of the growing season. Seeds can be collected from mature squash and saved for the next growing season.
How to Grow Cucuzza Squash From Seed
You will have good results by directly sowing Cucuzza squash seeds directly into garden soil once the danger of frost has passed.
If you cannot plant directly into the garden, you can start the seed indoors to grow seedlings for planting. Sow the seeds about one-inch deep in potting soil, then water well. Keep the seeds moist until they sprout, and continue regular watering until the plants are well established. When the plants have four or five true leaves, reduce watering and place the plants outside where they will receive wind protection and a couple of hours of sunlight to harden them off. Gradually expose them to more sunlight and keep them well watered. Plant in the garden after the chance of frost has passed in the spring or when the daytime temperature has dropped to around 65 degrees in the fall.
Potting and Repotting
If grown in a pot, Cucuzza squash, should not require repotting because it does not overwinter. Plant in a large pot so the plant does not need to be disturbed during the growing season.
Cucuzza squash is treated as an annual plant in the garden or in containers. Overwintering should not be attempted. Once the gourds are harvested, pull up the vine and add it to the compost pile.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Common pests are the same ones that attack any squash variety including aphids, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, stink bugs, cutworms, pickle worms, and squash vine borers. Potential disease problems include anthracnose, fusarium wilt, bacterial wilt, downy mildew, powdery mildew, and blights.
Is Cucuzza squash easy to grow?
Yes. Cucuzza squash vines grow quickly and vigorously with both male and female blossoms on a single vine. They do require trellising to produce unblemished vegetables.
How long does it take to grow Cucuzza squash?
You should be able to harvest the first tender Cucuzza squash within 60 days after planting the seeds. The fully-grown gourds are harvested 90 to 130 days after planting.
Does cucuzza squash come back every year?
Cucuzza is an annual vine that does not return the next year. When the growing season is complete, pull up the vine and add it to the compost pile.
- Lagenaria siceraria. North Carolina State University Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox
Ornamental gourds. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.