OF THE WEEK
Dr. T. Ombrello - UCC Biology Department
Scientific name: Cucurbita pepo
of scientific name:
- the Latin name for gourd.
- the technical name for the fleshy
berry-like fruit with a rind and spongy seedy
interior that is typical of members of this species.
like other members of the Gourd family of plants (Cucurbitaceae),
is a species with a wide diversity of form. Our
selection for unusual and useful fruit types over
the centuries has given us the following members
of this species:
1. Jack O’Lantern pumpkin
Connecticut Field pumpkin
3. Acorn or Table Queen squash
4. Vegetable Spaghetti squash
5. Zucchini summer squash
6. Yellow Crookneck summer squash
7. Bush Scallop or Patty Pan summer squash
8. Edible gourds
9. Vegetable gourds
hard shell gourds
you are familiar with even some of these
cultivated varieties, you can appreciate the wide
variation in color and form of fruit they
they are all members of the same species, they can
If any 2 of the above varieties are planted
near each other, bees will most likely
If one were to save the seeds and plant
them the following year, this second generation
would produce an unbelievable array of colored,
shaped, textured, and sized fruits.
Most or all of these offspring, however,
would be inferior to their parents in respect to
the purposes for which the parents were bred.
Commercial seed growers maintain the individual
varieties by isolating the growing areas to
is native to the Americas.
Archaeological digs have uncovered vast
numbers of seeds and rinds of this species,
indicating that it has been in cultivation for
thousands of years.
The species was introduced into Europe in
the early 1500’s, and received the common name
“gourd” because of its superficial resemblance
to Old World gourds.
In addition to spreading it throughout the
Old World, Europeans reintroduced the species back
into the Americas with the early colonists.
Simple plant breeding/selection, however,
had given rise to new forms that were unrecognized
by the Native American Indians.
small, hard shell gourds with such common names as
Apple, Bell, Bicolor, Egg, Orange, and Pear are
characterized by a hard lignified outer rind that
renders them virtually inedible to humans.
They do, however, find many uses.
Harvested in the fall after their extensive
vines have died down and the rind has hardened,
these gourds are often used to decorate tabletops
and front porches in baskets or flower
arrangements to herald the autumn season.
dried properly, these gourds will last almost
After harvesting, a long needle should be
used to punch a hole near the stem end of the
fruit to let air in.
If hung in a dry, well-ventilated place for
several months, the internal cavity will
dehydrate. The seeds will become loose and
rattle around when fully dry.
Besides ornaments, these dried fruits have been cut for use as domestic utensils such as bottles, bowls, ladles, spoons, churns and other containers. Musical instruments, pipes and floats for fishing nets have also been fashioned from the fruits. Some of the larger types have been made into simple birdhouses. The uses for these unusual fruits seem to be limited only by one’s imagination.