Pumpkin and Squash—Specialty Crop Profile
Whole fresh pumpkin and squash fruits are the primary product of commerce. Cooked squash may be canned or dried for storage. Seed can also be consumed. Flowers and tender vine tips of all edible types are sold and consumed as vegetables. Male flowers and vine tips provide a source of income for growers prior to fruits reaching marketable stage, although care should be taken to leave some male flowers as a pollen source for female flowers. Selective, judicial harvesting of young shoots should preserve and promote canopy development and is not expected to significantly reduce yields.
Pumpkin and squash can grow well in full or partial sunlight, but generally do not grow well under heavy shade. They can be planted successfully under young fruit trees before canopy closure or under papaya and similar sparse-canopy crops. It is often grown as a rapidly growing, weed suppressive, soil protective cover that provides some economic/food return while longer-term crops have time to become established.
Rapid vine growth and large leaves makes squash a relatively weed-tolerant crop that is rotated with less weed tolerant crops such as onions to reduce weed pressure. Vigorously vining cultivars may be used to cover marginal soils and steep slopes by preparing small planting holes and allowing vines to spread over unimproved or non-arable areas.
Fruit, seed, and greens are very nutritious. Greens can be a good source of Ca, P, Fe, and vitamins C and A. The most important non-caloric contribution of mature fruit to the diet is its carotenoid content, particularly pro-vitamin A carotenes (e.g., β-carotene). Mature squash and pumpkin contributes modestly (50 kcal per 100 g) to caloric intake due to its substantial dry matter and sugar content. However, the greatest potential caloric contribution to the diet comes from the seeds, with over 550 kcal per 100 g of fresh seed. Cucurbita seed oils are generally dominated by oleic (~50%), linoleic (~30%), and palmitic (~15%) acids.
Original source of this article
This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from
Radovich, T. 2011. Pumpkin and Squash (Cucurbita spp.). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.