Growing Cucuzza Squash is Easy- I’ll Show You How
No, I didn’t actually sneeze and I’m not catching a cold. I’m also not swearing at you, I promise. But what is a cucuzza squash, you ask? A cucuzza is a very cool Italian gourd somewhat like a zucchini. They are also called gagootza and Serpent of Sicily. Although unusual in this country, they are common in Italy.
If you’re a skimmer and just want the easy growing tips, head to the bottom of the post where I’ve listed 5 easy tips to get you growing cucuzza successfully.
So how do I know cucuzza is a gourd and not a squash (even though most people call them squash)? Cucuzza has beautiful white flowers, which makes it a gourd, as squash have yellow flowers. Never knew this, but I do now!
Where to Get Cucuzza Seeds
I love to grow unusual vegetables and heard about these from a friend so went on the hunt for seeds. I had a hard time finding them and could only get them here. I don’t think they’re very popular in the US, although they totally should be!
They’re Tough to Get Started
I ordered a dozen seeds in 2017 and ended up with 4 plants. I planted 6 indoors and 6 out, got 1 from the indoor planting and 3 from outdoors. No, they don’t germinate really well, I’m going to do some experimenting and figure out if I can increase germination rates.
I’m thinking trying added heat, or soaking the seeds, or scarifying (nicking) the seeds before planting. They’re quite large and hard, so I’m thinking they need some softening or “damaging” before planting to make them grow.
UPDATE: For 2019, I soaked the seeds for 24 hours before planting. I put half the planted seeds on a heat mat, and did the other half without added heat. I’ll keep you posted.
Easy Growing ~ They Get BIG!
That said, they are AWESOME plants to grow, and I don’t understand why they’re so unusual in this country! They are a bit slow to get started, especially here in New England, but once they take off, they TAKE OFF!
I have a large and sturdy structure hubby built for my different squash plants and that’s where these went. It’s a good thing, too, because the vines got HUGE! Each vine probably grew 15 feet or so, and online authorities say they can reach 25 feet. Plus, the leaves get quite large.
Sooooo, be sure to give them space, whether that be horizontal or vertical, like I did.
Great Bug Resistance
The cool thing about these plants is that the bugs don’t seem to like them. I had a terrible problem with squash bugs and cucumber beetles that summer and they never even glanced at my cucuzza.
I think it’s because the vines, leaves and fruit are all fuzzy. Really soft and velvety fuzzy, run your fingers over them because they feel like a kitten fuzzy. I may have liked the fuzz, but I have a feeling the bugs did not.
Peel Before Eating
Since they are fuzzy, though, the fruits do have to be peeled before you can use them. Not really a big deal, but don’t try to eat them with the skins on. I tried one and I don’t recommend it!
Cooking With Cucuzza
I wasn’t thrilled with them raw, although I do like raw zucchini. They weren’t terrible, just not really my thing. Cooked, though. Cooking is where they shine. You know how when you cook zucchini you pretty much end up with mush? Not these babies!
Cucuzza in Stews
They stand up so well to cooking that I even used them in stews in the crockpot and they did fine.
My crockpot stews are simple. I don’t have an actual recipe. I basically take stew beef (1 1/2-2 lbs depending on the size of the crockpot I’m using (I have 4) and how many leftovers I want). Then I add homemade beef bone broth (but you can use store-bought).
I put in whatever veggies I want (you can use potatoes or sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, whatever your little heart desires). If you’d rather use pasta versus the potatoes/sweet potatoes, don’t add that in until close to the end of the cooking time as you don’t want it mushy.
Then I add the cucuzza. However, I wouldn’t add it first thing in the morning, probably about 4 hours before the stew is done. They are wonderful!! They don’t have a ton of flavor, so they’re a great way to add extra veggies without messing with the flavor of whatever you’re making.
Roasted Cucuzza is da Bomb!
Another way they are absolutely heavenly is roasted. I peeled and cut mine up, then laid them on a cookie sheet. I drizzled several tablespoons of melted butter and as many cloves of chopped garlic as I thought my family would tolerate (I LOVE GARLIC!), and roasted them for about 30-40 minutes at 400F.
Oh. My. Goodness. If your kids don’t like veggies but they happen to like garlic, give this a try. I make no guarantees, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t eat them all. And hey, if they don’t like them, more for you. Win, win!
Preserving your Harvest
I have to admit I haven’t tried canning cucuzza yet because it freezes so well. Unlike zucchini, which REALLY doesn’t make it once frozen, cucuzza doesn’t get yuck after freezing. It’s still usable in stews and even for roasting. This stuff is just magic, I tell ya!
5 Easy Cucuzza Growing Tips
So, are you convinced you’ve GOT to grow this awesome and unusual vegetable this summer? Here are a few quick tips:
- Grow them pretty much like you would zucchini or cucumber, although allow plenty of climbing or spreading room.
- Don’t plant the seeds or plants outside until after frost is past, and don’t get impatient, they take a little time to get started.
- You’ll get fruit in the early fall in Zone 6, I assume a bit earlier south of us and a little later to the north. If you live north of Zone 6, though, I would recommend starting them inside as they do take quite a while to fruit and you might not make it before the first frost, which will kill them.
- They are best for eating when they’re about a foot long. At that stage, you can eat the seeds. If you happen to miss one and it gets a bit bigger, you’ll want to take the seeds out as they get pretty hard.
- If you want to keep seeds for the following year, let a fruit grow until it gets HUGE. You honestly only need one because they produce TONS of seeds.
A Word of Warning
If you save one for seeds, you’re going to need a hacksaw or power equipment to get through the skin. I am not kidding! Hubby just about cut his hand off trying to get into this baby with a butcher knife before he gave up and used his hacksaw. You have been warned!
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I hope I’ve inspired you to give cucuzza a try. If you’re going to or if you’ve grown it in the past, leave me some comment love and let me know. The images below are pinnable and I’d love it if you could pin them. Thanks a lot!
As always, smile and have a crazy organic day!