Cucurbita maxima, one of at least five species of cultivated squash, is one of the most diverse domesticated species. This species originated in South America from the wild Cucurbita 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, Myanmar, 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.
The seed of C. maxima is used in treating parasites in animals.
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Many different cultivars of Cucurbita maxima have been developed. As in C. pepo, plants exist with a "bush" habit that is particularly evident in young plants, although older plants grow in the wild-type vining manner.
- 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.
- The Nanticoke squash is a rare heirloom variety that was traditionally grown by the Nanticoke people of Delaware and Eastern Maryland. It is a turban-type squash and one of only a few surviving Native American winter squashes from the Eastern woodlands.
- Turk's turban, also known as "French turban", an heirloom predating 1820, and closely related to the buttercup squash.
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.
Different fruit types of C. maxima ssp. andreana from Argentina
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- Downing, Andrew Jackson (May 1859). The Horticulturalist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste. 14. New York: C. M. Saxton, Barker & Co. p. 4.
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- Millán, R. (1945). "Variaciones del zapallito amargo Cucurbita andreana y el origen de Cucurbita maxima". Revista Argentina de Agronomía (in Spanish). 12: 86–93.
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