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Cucurbita maxima - Duchesne. ex Lam.                
Common Name Winter Squash
Family Cucurbitaceae
Known Hazards The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo[65].
Habitats Not known in the wild.
Range Origin is obscure, possibly derived in cultivation from C. andreana.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Half Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Cucurbita maxima is a ANNUAL CLIMBER growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 5 m (16ft 5in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile.

USDA hardiness zone : 8-11

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cucurbita maxima Winter Squash'Atlantic_Giant'1.jpg
Cucurbita maxima Winter Squash
 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit;  Leaves;  Oil;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Oil.

Fruit - cooked[2, 27, 46, 97]. A delicious flavour when baked, rather like a sweet potato[K]. The flesh can be dried, ground into a powder and used with cereals in making bread, cakes etc[7, 183]. Some varieties can be stored for up to 9 months. Seed - raw or cooked[7, 57, 183]. Rich in oil with a very pleasant nutty flavour but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat[K]. The seed can also be ground into a powder and used with cereals in making breads etc[183]. An oil is obtained from the seed[21, 86]. Young flowers - raw or cooked[7, 135, 183]. They are often dipped in batter and fried. Young leaves and stems - cooked[135, 183]. The leaves contain up to 5% protein[183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Diuretic;  Nervine;  Poultice;  Tonic;  Vermifuge.

The seeds are diuretic, tonic and vermifuge[7, 88, 240]. The complete seed, together with the husk, is used as a vermifuge. This is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body[7]. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children[238]. The oil from the seed is used as a nerve tonic[240]. The fruit pulp is used as a soothing poultice on burns, inflammations and boils[240].
Other Uses
Cosmetic;  Oil;  Oil.

The seed contains 34 - 54% of a semi-drying oil[61, 86]. Used for lighting[21]. A nourishing face-mask can be made from the fruit that is effective for dry skins[7].
Cultivation details                                         
Requires a rich, well-drained moisture retentive soil and a very warm, sunny and sheltered position[37, 86]. Prefers a pH of 5.5 to 5.9, but tolerates up to 6.8[86]. Dry periods with a relatively low humidity favour the best growth[200]. A frost-tender annual plant, it is widely cultivated in tropical and temperate zones for its edible fruit, there are very many named varieties differing considerably in their fruits[183]. Most of the winter squashes derive from this species, including Hubbard, Butternut, Acorn, Argentine and Boston[86]. Many forms require a temperature range of 20 - 27°c during the growing season, but there are some forms that tolerate cooler conditions and these succeed outdoors most years in Britain[200, K]. Most cultivars are relatively insensitive to day-length[200]. Squashes and pumpkins can be differentiated from each other by their fruit stalk, it is angular and polygonal in pumpkins but thick, soft and round in squashes[132]. This species hybridizes readily with C. andreana but can only be crossed with other species under controlled conditions[86, 135]. Some modern works see C. andreana as being no more than a subspecies of this species, classifying it as C. maxima andreana (Naudin.)Filov. Grows well with sweetcorn and thornapple but dislikes potatoes[18, 20].
Seed - sow early to mid spring in a greenhouse in a rich soil. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. Sow 2 or 3 seeds per pot and thin out to the best plant. Grow them on fast and plant out after the last expected frosts, giving them cloche or frame protection for at least their first few weeks if you are trying them outdoors.
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Expert comment                                         
Duchesne. ex Lam.
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[18]Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
[20]Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Fairly good.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden.
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
[37]Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant.
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[86]Organ. J. Gourds.
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
[88]RHS. The Garden. Volume 112.
Snippets of information from the magazine of the RHS. In particular, there are articles on plants that are resistant to honey fungus, oriental vegetables, Cimicifuga spp, Passiflora species and Cucurbits.
[97]Towle. M. A. The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas..
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[135]? The Plantsman. Vol.8. 1986 - 1987.
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants including some Cucurbitaceae.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.

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Subject : Cucurbita maxima  

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