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The genus Cucurbita: 27 species and dozens of
cultivars

courgettes – 27 species altogether. And there are hundreds of varieties of the three main species – they're streaked, flecked and patterned as well as plain, and can be smooth, knobbly.The Cucurbita genus includes all types of squash and pumpkin together with

 

One distinction is between summer and winter squashes. Winter squashes are actually harvested in autumn, when they're fully ripe and aromatic, and can be stored over the winter. Summer squashes, by contrast, are harvested in summer when they're immature. Winter squash include the Cucurbita maxima with round, soft, cork-like stalks and thick skin which is usually not edible. Familiar cultivars are the golden Halloween pumpkins and Hubbard pumpkins with their nutty flavour.

Hokkaido and butternuts

The orange-red Hokkaido squashes are deservedly popular. They're smallish, delicious and you can eat the skin as well as the flesh. The Turk's Turban is a striking squash with firm rather dry flesh. The orange-red flesh of Moschus squashes (Cucurbita moschata) tastes slightly of musk. They're highly variable, ranging in shape from round and squat to bell-shaped or thin and crook-necked. Their skin can be green, brown, yellow-brown or even salmon pink. The popular butternut squash with its creamy, nutty-tasting flesh belongs to this family.

Garden squash, summer squash and oil
pumpkins

These species (Cucurbita pepo) have a hard stalk with a square cross-section. They're harvested, before they're fully ripe, through the summer. At this stage, they have a soft, edible skin and their flesh is less floury than the winter squash and pumpkins. This species includes courgettes with their delicate, nutty aroma, patty-pan squash that look like small flying saucers and taste rather like artichokes and green spaghetti squash, acorn squash and the Styrian oil squash. They taste delicious, but they don't keep well. The American Halloween pumpkins, by contrast, keep for months, but generally lack flavour.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de