Cucurbita ficifolia

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Cucurbita ficifolia
Cucurbita ficifolia Courge de Siam.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Cucurbita
C. ficifolia
Binomial name
Cucurbita ficifolia
  • Cucurbita melanosperma A.Braun ex Gasp.
  • Cucurbita mexicana Dammann
  • Pepo ficifolia (Bouché) Britton
  • Pepo malabaricus Sageret

Cucurbita ficifolia is a species of squash, grown for its edible seeds, fruit, and greens.[2] It has many common names in English such as the fig-leaf gourd, Malabar gourd, black seed squash and cidra. Although it is closely related to other squashes in its genus, such as the pumpkin, it shows considerable biochemical difference from them and does not hybridize readily with them.

Common names in English[edit]

Common names in other languages[edit]

  • Abóbora-chila or abóbora gila (Portugal, Brazil)[6][7]
  • Alcayota (Chile and the Cuyo region of Argentina)
  • Black seeded pumpkin (Japan), written as kurodane kabocha, 黒種南瓜 and フィシフォリア[6][8]
  • Cabell d'Àngel (angel's hair) (in Catalan)[6]
  • Calabaza de cabello de ángel (angel's hair pumpkin) (Spain)[6]
  • Cayote (most of Argentina)
  • Chiberre (Honduras)[6]
  • Chiverre(Costa Rica)[6]
  • Chilacayote (Mexico, Panama), Chilacayotl (Mexico, Guatemala) or Tzilacayote (Mexico)[6]
  • Courge à choucroute de cheveux d'ange (France)[6]
  • Courge de Siam (France)[7]
  • Lacayote (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru)[6]
  • Mboga ya kimasai (Swahili)[7]
  • Tenerifa (Madeira Island, Portugal)[7]
  • Shark fin melon (Asia), written as 魚翅瓜 in Mandarin
  • Calabaza (Colombia)
  • Zambo (Ecuador)[9]
  • Zucca del Siam or Zucca del Malabar (Italy)[6]


Like most members of the genus Cucurbita, C. ficifolia is a climbing vine that is an annual in temperate climates and a perennial in tropical zones. Unlike some other Cucurbita species, it does not have swollen storage roots.[10] The plant stem can grow five to fifteen meters and produces tendrils that help it climb adjacent plants and structures. It may root from the leaf axils,[7] unlike most other curcubits. The vine can become semiwoody if left to grow perennially, although most commercial plants are annual. Its leaves resemble fig leaves, hence its most common name in English – fig-leaf gourd – and its Latin species name (C. ficifolia which means fig leaf). The fruit is oblong, resembling a watermelon, with wide black seeds. In stark contrast to other Cucurbita, its fruit is highly uniform in size, shape, and color.[11]

The plant is monoecious with imperfect flowers (meaning its flowers are either male or female but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by insects, especially bees. The color of the flowers is yellow to orange.

The fruit is oblong with a diameter of eight inches or 20 centimeters, weighs eleven to 13 pounds (5 to 6 kilograms), and can produce up to 500 seeds. Its skin can vary from light or dark green to cream. One plant can produce over 50 fruit. The fruit can last without decomposing for several years if kept dry after harvest.

Origin and distribution[edit]

It is native to the Americas, although the exact center of domestication is unclear. Linguistic evidence suggests Mexico, because of the wide use of names based on the Nahuatl name "chilacayohtli" as far south as Argentina. However, archaeological evidence suggests Peru because the earliest remains have been found there. Biosystematics has been unable to confirm either hypothesis.[12]

Archeological records show that it was the most widespread variety of Cucurbita in the Americas, cultivated from northern Chile and Argentina Northwest to Mexico.[13] Now it is grown as far north as southern California. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Europeans introduced it to the Mediterranean regions of Europe (specifically France and Portugal) as well as India. From there it has spread to many other parts of the world and picked up more names.


The fig-leaved gourd grows in temperate highlands at elevations up to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).[14] It is often used as a grafting rootstock for other less resistant cucurbits. C. ficifolia can be propagated through planting seeds and by layering. Tendrils can grow into roots if anchored into the soil, and can propagate new plants once cut, which can be moved to new sites.[citation needed] Because it is not very resistant to frost, it is often planted after this risk has passed. Established plants, however can withstand short overnight frosts.


The flowers, leaves and tender shoots are used in Mexico and other countries as greens. The most nutritional part of Cucurbita ficifolia is its fat- and protein-rich seeds, which can vary in color from white to black. They are used in Mexico to make palanquetas, a sweet similar to peanut brittle. The fruit has several uses as food. The immature fruit is eaten cooked, while the mature fruit is sweet and used to make confectionery and beverages, sometimes alcoholic. The fruit is low in beta-carotene, as can be seen from its white flesh, and is relatively low in vitamins and minerals, and moderately high in carbohydrates.[citation needed]

In Europe: In Spain this squash is used to make a jam known as "cabello de ángel" (angel's hair), "cabell d'àngel" in Catalan, that is used to fill pies, sweets and confectionery. In Portugal, where the fruit is known as "chila" or "gila", it is still used extensively in the production of traditional Portuguese sweets and confectionery; it was also used as a crop for non-human consumption in order to feed pigs.

In Latin America: In Chile jam is often made out of the fruit of "alcayota. In Costa Rica, it is traditional to make empanadas stuffed with sugared "chiverre" filling at Easter time.

In Asia, the pulp strands are used to make soup, quite similar to shark fin soup, hence the name "shark's fin melon". The cultivation and this usage feature briefly in the film Grow Your Own. Across Asia, eating this melon is also said to help people with diabetes. Several scientific studies have confirmed its hypoglycemic effect.[15] It is used effectively to treat diabetes due to its high D-Chiro-Inositol content.[16]

The vine and fruit are used for fodder. Because of its ability to keep for a long time, the ripe fruit was taken on voyages on ships, and used for food for livestock on board.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "A Working List of All Plant Species". The Plant List. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Cucurbita ficifolia - Bouché". Plants for a Future. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Cucurbita ficifolia". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  4. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Cucurbita ficifolia". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  5. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
  7. ^ a b c d e Grubben, G.J.H. (2004). "Cucurbita ficifolia Bouché". In Grubben, G.J.H.; Denton, O.A. (eds.). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. Wageningen, Netherlands: PROTA. Archived from the original on 2017-05-11. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
  8. ^ Cucurbita ficifolia in Japanese Archived 2013-01-11 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Cucurbita ficifolia Bouché". Purdue University. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  10. ^ Saade, R. Lira; Hernández, S. Montes. "Cucurbits". Purdue Horticulture. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  11. ^ 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:10.1007/BF02860475. JSTOR 4255271. S2CID 40493539.
  12. ^ Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective (ch 10)
  13. ^ Bisognin, Dilson Antônio (2002). "Origin and evolution of cultivated cucurbits". Ciência Rural. 32 (4): 715–723. CiteSeerX doi:10.1590/S0103-84782002000400028.
  14. ^ Ng, Timothy J. (1993). "New Opportunities in the Cucurbitaceae: New World Cucurbits". Purdue University. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  15. ^ Acosta-Patiño, J.L.; Jiménez-Balderas, E.; Juárez-Oropeza, M.A.; Dı́Az-Zagoya, J.C. (2001). "Hypoglycemic action of Cucurbita ficifolia on Type 2 diabetic patients with moderately high blood glucose levels". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 77 (1): 99–101. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(01)00272-0. PMID 11483384.
  16. ^ Xia, T; Wang, Q (2006). "D-chiro-inositol found in Cucurbita ficifolia (Cucurbitaceae) fruit extracts plays the hypoglycaemic role in streptozocin-diabetic rats". The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 58 (11): 1527–32. doi:10.1211/jpp.58.10.0014. PMID 17132216. S2CID 25816373.

External links[edit]

  • Acosta-Patiño, J.L.; Jiménez-Balderas, E.; Juárez-Oropeza, M.A.; Dı́Az-Zagoya, J.C. (2001). "Hypoglycemic action of Cucurbita ficifolia on Type 2 diabetic patients with moderately high blood glucose levels". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 77 (1): 99–101. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(01)00272-0. PMID 11483384.