Cucurbita maxima, one of at least five species of cultivated squash, is one of the most diverse domesticated species, perhaps with more cultivated forms than any other crop. This species originated in South America from the wild C. maxima ssp. andreana over 4000 years ago. The two species hybridize quite readily but have noticeably different calcium levels. Different squash types of this species were introduced into North America as early as the 16th century. By the American Revolution, the species was in cultivation by Native American tribes throughout the present-day United States. By the early 19th century, at least three varieties are known to have been commercially introduced in North America from seeds obtained from Native Americans. Secondary centers of diversity include India, Bangladesh, Burma, and possibly the southern Appalachians. The large red-orange squashes often seen at Halloween in the United States are C. maxima, but not to be confused with the orange type used for jack-o-lanterns, which are C. pepo.
Arikara squash is an heirloom variety of C. maxima. Fruits weigh from four to eleven pounds. The shape of the fruit can be tear-drop or round, and they are colored in a mottled orange and green pattern. It is desired both for its eating qualities and as a seasonal decoration. This variety traces its ancestry to the Arikara tribe of the Dakotas, among whom its cultivation predates white settlement.
Banana squash has an elongated shape, with light blue, pink or orange skin and bright orange flesh.
Boston marrow sweet tasting, narrow at one end and bulbous at the other.
Buttercup squash is one of the most common varieties of this winter squash, with a turban shape (a flattish top and dark green skin), weighing three to five pounds, and normally heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh.
The Candy Roaster landrace was originally developed by the Cherokee people in the southern Appalachians. Another heirloom variety, it is quite variable in size (10-250+ lbs), shape (round, cylindrical, teardrop, blocky, etc.), and color (pink, tan, green, blue, gray, or orange), yet most have fine-textured orange flesh. This variety enjoys continued popularity, particularly in the southern Appalachians.
Hubbard squash is another cultivar of this species that usually has a tear-drop shape. They are often used as a replacement for pumpkins in cooking. According to one source, the name comes from Bela Hubbard, settler of Randolph Township, Ohio in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Many other sources list an alternate history. These sources state the hubbard squash (at the time nameless) came to Marblehead, Massachusetts through Captain Knott Martin. A woman named Elizabeth Hubbard brought the fruit to the attention of her neighbor, a seed trader named James J. H. Gregory. Mr. Gregory subsequently introduced it to the market using Mrs. Hubbard's name as the eponym. Gregory later bred and released the blue hubbard, which has a bluish-gray skin. The other major variety, the golden hubbard squash, has a bright orange skin. Gregory advertisements for the squash date from at least 1859. The hubbard squash, including questions regarding the name, is even the subject of a children's ditty, "Raising Hubbard Squash in Vermont".
Jarrahdale pumpkin is a pumpkin with gray skin. It is nearly identical to 'Queensland Blue' and 'Sweet Meat' varieties.
Kabocha is a Japanese variety.
Lakota squash is an American variety.
C. maxima is used in treating parasites in animals.
Subspecies, cultivars and varieties
The Systax database at the University of Ulm lists the following subspecies:
- Cucurbita maxima Duchesne (including variety 'Queensland Blue' et al.)
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. andreana (Naudin) Filov
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. maxima (including varieties 'Golden Delicious', 'Hubbard Squash', et al.)
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. maxima convar. bananina Grebensc.
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. maxima convar. hubardiana Grebensc. (including variety 'Golden Delicious', 'Green Hubbard', 'Hubbard's Squash', 'Yellow Hubbard' et al.)
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. maxima convar. zapallitina Grebensc. (includes typical cultivated form of summer squash "zapallito" popular in Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Brasil)
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. maxima convar. maxima (including varieties 'Hokkaido', 'Red Hokkaido', 'Red Kuri', 'Sweet Meat' et al.)
- C. maxima Duchesne ssp. maxima convar. turbaniformis (M.Roem.) Alef.
- Systax database at the University of Ulm accessed 11 Sep 2010
- The Plant List, Cucurbita maxima
- Esquinas-Alcazar, J.T. and P.J. Gulick. 1983. Genetic resources of Cucurbitaceae: A global report. 1st ed. Intl. Board Plant Genet. Resour., IBPGR. Rome, Italy.
- Sanjur, Oris I.; Piperno, Dolores R.; Andres, Thomas C.; Wessel-Beaver, Linda (2002). "Phylogenetic Relationships among Domesticated and Wild Species of Cucurbita (Cucurbitaceae) Inferred from a Mitochondrial Gene: Implications for Crop Plant Evolution and Areas of Origin" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences) 99 (1): 535–540. JSTOR 3057572.
- Skilnyk, Hilary R.; Lott, John N. A. (1992). "Mineral analyses of storage reserves of Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita andreana pollen". Canadian Journal of Botany 70 (3): 491–495. doi:10.1139/b92-063.
- Nee, Michael (1990). "The Domestication of Cucurbita (Cucurbitaceae)". Economic Botany (New York: New York Botanical Gardens Press) 44 (3, Supplement: New Perspectives on the Origin and Evolution of New World Domesticated Plants): 56–68. doi:10.2307.2F4255271. JSTOR 4255271.
- "Boston Marrow Squash". Rare Seeds. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
- Troyer, Loris C.: "Portage Pathways" p. 8, Kent State University Press, 1998
- Watson, Ben: "Taylor's Guides to Heirloom Vegetables: A Complete Guide to the Best Historic and Ethnic Varieties" p. 268, 1996
- "James J. H. Gregory: A Timeline of his Life", Worrell, Shari Kelley with Norma Lovett Gregory Kelley Flude, Victory Horticultural Library, SaveSeeds.org
- The Horticulturalist Advertiser, May 1859, p.4 in The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste Volume 14
- Cady, Daniel Leavens. Rhymes of Vermont Rural Life , Vermont:The Tuttle company, 1919 p. 100
- World Record Achievements. GiantPumpkin.com.
- Díaz, Obregón D.; Lloja, Lozano L.; Carbajal, Zúñiga V. (2004). "Preclinical studies of cucurbita maxima (pumpkin seeds) a traditional intestinal antiparasitic in rural urban areas". Revista de Gastroenterologia del Perú (in Spanish) 24 (4): 323–327. PMID 15614300.
- Millán, R. 1945. Variaciones el zapallito amargo Cucurbita andreana y el origen de Cucurbita maxima. Rev. Arg. de Agron. 12:86-93.
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