Some vegetables are easy to grow in your garden. The Cucuzza squash is one of those vegetables that you should grow and harvest in your garden. Fresh Cucuzza Italian squash is great in stews or you can roast it. If you have never tried a stew crockpot with Cucuzza, you’re missing a lot. But first, you have to get the Cucuzza squash plants growing in your garden first.
This can be a little tricky, especially starting the plants from seeds. But we’ll try to simplify that and make it easy for you to grow your own Cucuzza Italian squash right in your garden. It doesn’t matter if this is your first rodeo so to speak gardening-wise. This article covers everything you need to know about Cucuzza squash, from planting, to caring and harvesting these delicious veggies.
Cucuzza Squash Basics
The Cucuzza squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family and is native to Italy. It is a climbing and creeping plant that grows in warm to moderate climates. While the plant resembles a pumpkin in the way it climbs, the fruits themselves are more akin to zucchini than to pumpkins. The fruits are usually thin and long-ranging from a few inches to three feet.
Besides the fruits which are the main reason many people grow this plant, the Cucuzza also has ornamental values. You can grow them near a wall and train the vines and tendrils to climb and cover the wall or archway with bright green foliage. The plant has both male and female types but they both look similar even when they flower.
The flowers of the Cucuzza are another reason to cherish and celebrate this useful plant. They’re a few inches wide but are very white and stand out against the green backdrop of leaves and tendrils. They attract a lot of pollinators and create a lively atmosphere in your garden thanks to the nectar they produce for the bees and butterflies.
Cucuzza Squash Varieties
The Cucurbitaceae family is a large family that produces different veggies that look very different from each other. Interestingly enough, they all belong to the same species. For the most part, it’s not just the flesh that is edible, but also the skin and seeds. All in all, the Cucuzza squash is an all-around delightful plant to grow and enjoy in your garden.
- Zucchini: The one thing that makes zucchini stand out in this family is the color of its skin. It’s usually bright green although you can find zucchini cultivars producing yellow and even dark green fruits. The cylindrical fruits are usually striped although some varieties are smooth. As for length, they vary from 5 inches long to the more impressive varieties that reach 15 inches.
- Yellow: As the name suggests, the fruits of this variety are pale green or even bright yellow. But it’s the shape of the fruit that’s really striking. They usually have a slender neck and fat bottom almost like a pear. The skin is usually smooth although you could find slight ridges along the length of the fruit.
- Crookneck: The unmistakable shape of this fruit is its claim to fame. From a round bottom, a neck stretches out and then turns to one side. It looks like a swan swimming gracefully in a lake. The skin is a little bumpy and rough and the flavor is milder than other varieties.
- Pattypan: Another variety that has an unusual fruit. More like a patty or a pie, the round and fat fruit has scalloped contours. But that’s not all you get from the eye-candy. It’s just as flavorful and delicious as it is pleasing to the eye. The fruits can be white, yellow, or a little greenish when ripe.
With all these varieties, you might be at a loss at which one to grow. I recommend you experiment with the pattypan and zucchini for starters. Then you can try out the other two varieties. While their fruits are not as appealing, the yellow and crookneck have lush foliage and serve as ornamental plants.
How To Grow Cucuzza Squash
We mentioned at the beginning that starting Cucuzza squash from seeds was a little tricky. And since that’s the most common way to grow it, then you’ll have to learn how to plant the seeds and get them to germinate successfully. Here is how you can plant the seeds in easy steps.
- Since the Cucuzza squash needs support to climb, you should pick a spot in the garden close to the fence or a trellis.
- Use a spade to dig up the soil and loosen it. Till the topsoil well.
- Add organic compost or aged manure to enrich the soil. Most veggies love fertile soil. You’ll need about one pound of organic fertilizer for every five square feet of soil.
- About two weeks after the last frost, plant the seeds in the tilled soil. The soil should be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the germination of the seeds.
- Dig a small hole about an inch deep and throw in one seed, then cover with loose soil.
- Space the seeds about 12 inches apart to give them enough room to grow.
- Water the soil thoroughly to help the seeds settle.
- When the seeds sprout and grow about 3 inches above the ground, you need to thin them out.
- Take out the seedlings that don’t look healthy increasing the spacing between each plant to about 36 feet.
- Add a thin layer of fertilizer to give the seedlings a good start.
- Cover the rows of Cucuzza squash with mulch to fight off weed growth. Make sure the mulch doesn’t cover the plants.
- Keep the soil moist while the plants are still growing. You can irrigate it once a week.
Cucuzza Squash Care
While it might sound like growing Cucuzza squash from seeds isn’t different from planting other vegetables, keep in mind that the seeds don’t always germinate. The soil temperature and the health of the seeds themselves play a major part in that. Then it’s a matter of thinning the seedlings to give them a better chance at survival. If everything goes well, you can expect to harvest ripe fruits about 55 days from the time you plant the seeds.
The Cucuzza squash thrives in fertile soil. So you need to prepare the soil beforehand. Remove any rocks or debris and make sure the bed doesn’t have any weeds in it. Till the soil to make it loose and improve drainage. Allow it time to dry under the warm spring sun before you plant the seeds. Mix plenty of organic matter in the soil to ensure the success of the plants. The richer the soil the better the crop you get at the end of the season. Make sure the top 8 to 10 inches of soil is fertile because that’s how deep the roots of the Cucuzza go.
Besides the organic compost and mulch, you will also need to feed the Cucuzza squash between 2 to 3 times along its lifespan. The first is right after you thin the seedlings. The second is 3 weeks after planting. And the last time is around the time the flower buds start to develop. You can use a 10-10-10 fertilizer in small doses. On average a couple of tablespoons of fertilizer are enough to feed an area of about 3 square feet. Use a spade to work the fertilizer in the topsoil then water immediately. Don’t let the fertilizer come in contact with the stem of the plant to avoid burning.
The Cucuzza Italian squash needs well-balanced irrigation. You don’t want the soil to get wet, but it also can’t handle drought. This is a vegetable after all and it needs its soil moist. Depending on the weather conditions in your area, you might need to water it once a week. If it’s dry and the soil loses its moisture quickly you could increase that to twice every 10 days. When you irrigate, make sure the soil doesn’t get thoroughly wet. The same applies to the type of soil you grow the plant in. Sandy soil needs more frequent watering than clay or other types of soil.
Pests and Diseases
As with most vegetables, you need to check on your Cucuzza squash regularly to make sure they’re healthy and disease-free. As the fruits grow, that’s when pests are likely to hit. The juicy fruits are too irresistible for bugs such as the squash vine borer. It attacks the stems of the plant and causes them to wilt and die. The squash bug is a flat insect that feeds on the green leaves and tendrils. You also have to fend off the cucumber beetle, a vicious pest that bores into the fruit even before it is ripe and ruins the crop.
To fend off these pests, you can spray the vines and leaves with neem oil. In the case of cucumber beetles, you can pick the bugs by hand and drown them in a bucket full of water and detergent mix.
When it comes time to harvest the Cucuzza squash, you have a small window. From the time they become ripe the seeds start to grow and the flesh loses most flavors. Roughly the fruits are ready to harvest about 55 days from planting the seeds. You also want to collect the ripe fruits before the first frost. Use clean and sanitized pruning scissors to cut the fruit. Don’t try to pull it off the vine since that could damage the plant or the fruit itself. Keep the Cucuzza squash fresh in the fridge where it will stay fresh for up to a week.