Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cucuzzi - Feed a Family with One Fruit!

       Here is a great plant for vertical gardening. This gourd does grow fast and long. I pruned ours to keep it within the bounds of its area and it did not mind at all. This gourd needs sun, we planted it at a defined shade line and it grew totally toward the sun side. With 20' of growth on one side and 1' on the shade side. Though it is a consistant producer, we were not overwhelmed with numbers. We had zero issues with insects or diseases. Squash and stink bugs stayed away although they were feeding nearby. We had a great harvest from 2 seeds. We covered the plant for several freezes and pulled the last gourds at Christmas.

      Potential sites includes arbors, fences, or perhaps trellising against a south wall to provide shade. Give this one room to run or train it to grow along the fence or arbor. Ours grew up and out of a tomato cage and along the ground and then climbed another cage 8' away. The bed width where we tried the plant is 4', to maintain access I pruned the plant 2x during the growing season. The cucuzzi took the hint and tried to stay inbounds and grew along the bed very nicely.

       Our favorite way to eat them is to cut them into 1/2" squares, stirfry in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. We think it tastes like a bite of meat. We often include it in dishes, but this one can stand alone on the plate. One gourd can make several meals.    

     Ours came from Lincoln, AL where they are simply called "Long Gourd" cucuzzi.  Also known as Hercules's Club and other imaginative names.

Lagenaria siceraria -- Vine growth is very vigorous. Leaves are large with a soft, velvety texture. Leaf margins are irregular but not lobed. Tendrils are long and forked. Vines have a musky scent. Flowers, which are perched on long, slender stems and have a sweet scent, bloom only at night and are pollinated by moths. Fruit size varies from medium small to very large. The mostly thin-shelled fruit can be dried to form a mostly empty shell. Seed size and color is too variable to delineate.  (from Commercial Production and Management of Pumpkins and Gourds Edited by William Terry Kelley, Extension Horticulturist  David B. Langston, Jr., Extension Plant Pathologist)

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