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Synonyms: pumpkin, cucurbit, vegetable marrow; Botanical name: Cucurbita sp.


Many varieties and types of the family Cucurbitaceae are known as squash. The calabash, the snake gourd, and the wax gourd also belong to this family, although they are not so closely related to the other varieties. Strictly speaking, the cucumber should also be counted as a squash, as it belongs to the family, but it has established itself as a separate vegetable.

There are both edible and decorative varieties of squash, and this can cause some confusion. The names are not always easy to explain either. For example, the Cucurbita maxima is marketed in Germany as a giant pumpkin, its size and volume being the most conspicuous features. In the USA and some other countries, however, this botanical name stands instead for the small to medium sized squashes such as summer squash and buttercup squash, which has a green skin, orange pulp and a sweet taste.

The term squash itself is also confusing, because it is used for different types and varieties in different countries. They are best differentiated by means of their botanical names.

All varieties of squash known today can be traced back to an edible gourd that was cultivated by the American Indians as long as 8000 years ago. Many varieties today are indigenous to the most varied regions of the earth. The summer varieties are imported mainly from France and the winter varieties from Kenia.


We differentiate between summer and winter squashes. The summer squashes are harvested when still unripe and can then be kept for up to 3 weeks. Winter squashes are harvested when ripe. They can be stored for a much longer period. Owing to growing interest in the past few years, more varieties of squash are now available.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Botanically, squashes are berries. Summer squashes are also known as vegetables squashes, winter squashes as pumpkins, based on the given uses of each type.

Several varieties of squash are presented here. Some of them will be dealt with in more detail in separate entries.

* Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata)

This summer squash is shaped like a bottle and has a smooth, light-yellow surface. The pulp has a nutty and sweetish aroma and is suited for both sweet and hearty dishes.

* Calabash (Lagenaria siceraria)

The individual fruits vary in size, reaching between 10 and 100 cm in length. Their shape can also vary greatly, which makes it nearly impossible to give a uniform description. The colour of the pulp (light green) is always the same, however, and the shell is consistently very firm and robust. The calabash is a winter squash.

Read more under Calabash.

 * Garden squash (Cucurbita pepo)

Several varieties, among them the zucchini/courgette, the Patisson squash, the Rondini squash and the spaghetti squash, belong to the garden squashes. The latter three are often simply called squash in English, which makes it difficult to differentiate them from one another and from other varieties.

*Hokkaido pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima sp. maxima conver. hubbardiana)

This is a subspecies of the pumpkin that has become well-known and quite popular as a winter squash in Germany in the past few years. The Hokkaido is red-orange and rather small. It can be harvested as both a summer and a winter squash.

Read more under Winter squash/Giant Pumpkin.

 * Patisson, pattypan, scallop squash (Cucurbita pepo var. patissonia)

The American Indians cultivated the white, yellow or green Patisson squash. With its round but flat form and scalloped edge it resembles a flying saucer. It is relatively small. This squash has little flavour and the pulp is similar to that of cucumbers or zucchini/courgettes. Because of its neutral flavour the Patisson can be combined with many dishes, but it should not be eaten raw.

* Giant pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima)

 Numerous varieties, differing in size and colour, belong to the giant pumpkins; probably the best known is the Hokkaido pumpkin.

Read more under Winter squash/Giant Pumpkin.

* Rondini squash

This new type of squash is at home in America and subtropical Africa, where it is one of the staple foods in many areas. The Rondini is closely related botanically to the cucumber and the zucchini/courgette.

Its relationship to the courgette is immediately apparent, as it looks like a spherical variation of the green courgette, about the size and shape of a tennis ball. As it ripens, it turns orange-red, but it is harvested when it is still unripe and green. Unlike the courgette, the Rondini should not be eaten raw, but always steamed.

* Snake gourd (Trichosanthes cucumerina)

This cucumber-like squash belongs to a different genus than the other squashes but is nevertheless like them a member of the family Cucurbitaceae and is grouped with them. It grows in Southeast Asia, where the unripe fruits are used for salads and prepared as a vegetable. Ripe squashes of this variety are not eaten because of their bitter taste and their stringy consistency.

* Spaghetti squash (a variation of the garden squash Cucurbita pepo)

Also known as spaghetti marrow, this somewhat peculiar squash comes originally from Japan. Imports sold in Germany come from France or Israel, but in general spaghetti squash is seldom available. The yellow surface of the round-oval, 20–25 cm long squash is smooth.

The curious thing about spaghetti squash is what happens when it is cooked. When it is cooked whole for about 30 minutes, the stringy pulp forms strands that resemble spaghetti. These strands are also eaten like spaghetti: After the seeds have been removed, they are eaten with a sauce of butter and Parmesan cheese right out of the squash shell.

*Wax gourd (Benincasa hispida)

This squash, also known as "winter melon", probably got its name from its appearance; the dark-green skin is covered with a layer of white wax. As it keeps well for a long time, it can be classified as a winter squash,

Read more under Wax gourd.

*Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo var. giromontiina)

The zucchini is also a type of squash, as can be seen from its botanical name. It belongs to the summer squashes. Optically, it more closely resembles the cucumber, although it is more distantly related to it. The cucumber belongs to the gourd family, but it is considered a vegetable in its own right.

Zucchini are generally 15–20 cm long and slightly angular. The pulp is white and firm.

Read more under Zucchini.

Hybrids of the varieties here described are also possible.


Squashes provide very little energy, only about 20 calories per 100 g depending on the variety. 100 g contain:

Squash, fresh
Winter squash
Wax bottle gourd, fresh
Pumkin seeds
Energie (kcal)
Wasser (g)
Eiweiß (g)
< 1
Fett (g)
< 1
< 1
Kohlenhydrate (g)
Ballaststoffe (g)
< 1
Vitamin A (RÄ) (μg)
β-Carotin (μg)
Niacin (NÄ) (mg)
< 1
Vitamin C (mg)
< 1
Kalium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Phosphor (mg)
Eisen (mg)
< 1
< 1

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Storage differs with the type of squash. Summer squashes keep only up to 3 weeks, while winter varieties, with their thicker skins, can be kept for much longer periods.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Summer squashes can be prepared as salads, or marinated, fried or stewed. The skin can be eaten as well. All summer squashes are used predominantly in hearty dishes. Winter squash, on the other hand, is used for sweet dishes such as compote or baked in breads or cakes.

Pumpkin-seed oil is obtained from the pumpkin seeds, which contain 20–30% oil, and is used for tasty salad dressings.

The seeds of some varieties, for example the giant pumpkin, are edible and are sold as pumpkin seeds. Other types should not be eaten.





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