Cushaw Squash Plants – How and when to plant Cushaw squash

If you live in the southern United States, you may already be familiar with the cushaw culture. A strain of the twisted neck squash family, twisted neck squash plants have many advantages over growing other winter squash varieties. So how do we grow cushaw pumpkin plants and what other interesting information can we get?

Information about the Cushaw pumpkin

Cushaw ( Cucurbita argyrosperma ) comes from the Caribbean and therefore tolerates wet conditions. This pumpkin is a variety of green striped and twisted neck, cultivated by the Amerindians as a staple food. The fruit weighs an average of 10 to 20 pounds, measures 12 to 18 cm long and about 10 cm wide.

The flesh is light yellow in color and the taste is slightly sweet. The Cushaw pumpkin is also often known as the Cushaw squash or, in the Appalachians, as the Tennessee sweet potato. Ripening from late summer to fall, this hard-shelled winter squash can be used in sweet or savoury dishes and is often used, especially in the Appalachians, as a substitute for pumpkin in cakes.

Some indigenous cultures also ate the roasted seeds or milled them for use in sauces and stuffed and fried the flowers. The pumpkin was very popular in Creole and Cajun cuisine, and making cushaw butter is still a family tradition in parts of Tennessee.

The cushaw gourd, one of the most important food crops of the New World, is believed to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica between 7,000 and 3,000 BC. Read on to find out when to plant cushaw and other information about growing cushaw squash.

When to plant Cushaw pumpkin

This winter squash is so called because of its long storage life, up to four months in winter. At that time, it was an invaluable source of vitamin C and other nutrients for indigenous peoples and New World settlers.

The Cushaw pumpkin crop is also resistant to the pumpkin vine moth, a voracious parasite that kills most other pumpkins. This may be one of the reasons for the longevity of cushaw pumpkin varieties; they have simply survived epidemics of borer that have killed other types of pumpkins. This type of pumpkin also has a high heat tolerance with little irrigation.

Plant the cushaw after the last frost or start two weeks before the last frost in your area.

Growing Cushaw Pumpkin

The ideal soil pH for growing squash is between 6.0 and 7.5. Use a soil test to determine if your soil needs to be modified. Limestone and wood ash in the soil can raise the pH, while gypsum and sulphur can lower it. You should also incorporate about 2 cm of organic matter into the soil to provide nitrogen for the growing pumpkin.

It creates piles of soil, spaced 4 to 6 feet apart, 6 cm high and one foot wide. Be sure to leave enough room for the vines that grow in abundance. If the soil is dry, it must be wet. You are now ready to transplant your plants or to plant them directly. Wait until the temperature is at least 60 F. (15 C.) for direct planting. Sow four to six seeds per hill, then reduce the density of the strongest seedlings.

Like other pumpkin varieties, cushaw is beautifully associated with the Three Sisters, a traditional indigenous method of cultivation that includes pumpkin, corn and beans. Other accompanying crops include :

  • Celery
  • Dill
  • Nasturtium
  • Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Mint
  • Marigold
  • Oregano
  • Borage

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