My unexpected Zucchini-monster…

(Nederlandse versie hier)

This wcourgettedingesell-shaped zucchini comes from a plant in my pumpkin patch although I didn’t plant anything like this, and I honestly have no idea what the plant it comes from was supposed to be, since the label is unreadable now… That doesn’t mean that it’s not pretty good taste-wise, and not ugly either… I did harvest more than one of these fruits from that plant already, and it’s not a bad yielder. I also used some leaves together with other Cucurbita-green in a fine African pumpkin leaves-peanut stew, which i still recommend very much by the way. I still make it with chicken satay and rice, but someday I will try it with fufu.

But let’s go back to my green zucchini here. I don’t know what I originally planted, but it is clear that it comes from impure zucchini seeds. The plant has a semi-bushy way of growth, only growing out a bit more than a normal courgette plant, so I suppose it is a cross between a standard green bush zucchini and other Cucurbita pepo that is not growing bushy, with broader fruit. I suspect it to be something like a spaghetti squash, but I’m not sure at all of that. There are many types of squash besides of long and round zucchini within the species C. pepo, like spaghetti squash, pattypan squash and certain pumpkins. But there are also varietiest that are bred as ornamental gourds’.

And that bit required a warning: some of those ornamental forms of C. pepo are not edible, because they are very bitter by the presence of the rather dangerous cucurbitine. So it can be dangerous to eat just any gourdlike suqash of unknown origin. Fortunately cucurbitine is easily recognizable by the bitter taste so most people won’t eat it.

But it remains important to be very careful with C. Pepo squashes that do not look like the mother plant because their father is soe unknown pollinator, and they must therefore be tasted with great suspicion (by someone who can distinguish a bitter taste well) before it is eaten and served to others…

So if you should ever encounter a bitter zucchini, squash, spaghetti squash or the like, do not eat it, but immediately pull out the plant itself so it won’t pollinate any of the others (in case you take seed)! And do not take any seed of C. pepo variants if bitter plant were close when they were pollinated and the fruits were formed. Also never take C. pepo seed from uncontrolled pollination when bitter gourds grew nearby.

This bit holds true especially for pumpkin varieties of the genus Cucurbita pepo. There are no bitter varieties grown of the other species of the genus. So C. maxima (most winter squashes including giant pumpkins and hokkaido varieties), C. moschata (butternut), and possibly C. ficifolia and C. mixta do not pose the same no such risk.

But still, never eat a bitter squash, kids…

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