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Zapallo can reach giant size. (H. Popenoe)

far south as northern Colombia and Venezuela. Apparently, it was introduced to Peru as early as 3000 B.C.

At the time of the Spanish colonization, the crookneck was abundant in northern South America and Central America.5 Today, it is grown extensively in other parts of the world, especially in tropical Asia and Japan. Highly esteemed varieties in the United States include such cultivars as Butternut and Cushaw. It is the chief canning “pumpkin” of the midwestern United States, eaten each year by millions of families in Thanksgiving pie.

It, too, is a winter-type squash. However, it is well adapted to the tropical lowlands where high temperatures and high humidity prevail. It is notably resistant to the pesky squash-vine borer.

The plant yields five different products: mature fruits, which are baked, steamed, or made into pie; young fruits, which are boiled; male flowers, which are dipped in batter and fried as fritters (buñuelos); seeds that are roasted; and young tips of the vines, which are eaten boiled. The seeds have a delightful, nutty flavor, and were probably the product for which this plant was initially domesticated.

5 It had also been carried (probably via Mexico) to Florida, where the Indians grew its vines on girdled oak trees. Early Florida settlers adopted it and called it the “Seminole pumpkin.” Common names used in Latin America include ayote (Central America), lacayote (Peru), joko (Bolivia), and auyama (Colombia, Venezuela).

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