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Cucuzza? Growing an Unusual Italian Gourd

by Dawn
variously sized cucuzzas

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! 

cucuzza on vine
This one is too big to eat, I was letting it grow for seed

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.

Big and little cucuzza gourds
The one on the left is a bit big for eating.
The one on the right is a better eating size.

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:  

  1. Grow them pretty much like you would zucchini or cucumber, although allow plenty of climbing or spreading room.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.  
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.  
Giant cucuzza in my kitchen
My giant cucuzza- 40+ inches long!

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!

cucuzza gourd on vine
mixed vegetables with cucuzza

 Growing Cucuzza Squash is Easy- I’ll Show You How

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52 comments

Jan Etzel 10/18/2019 - 9:47 pm

I can’t wait to get started with planting and watch them grooooow in SW Florida. I have a wooden fence I am thinking of using…would that bee ok?

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Dawn 10/19/2019 - 12:29 pm

If it’s relatively sturdy, that should work just fine. They get quite large but a fence should work well.

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Darlene Christian 09/24/2019 - 12:08 pm

This our second year growing Cucuzza. Our first year we only got a few so we ate them as they came in. I found a recipe for Spicy Italian Cucuzza Bake, which we do like a lot. This year however we have more coming on than we can eat so need to know the steps to prepare them for freezing. Can you tell me what I need to do to prepare them for freezing? Do I need to blanch, peel and etc.?

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Dawn 09/27/2019 - 7:19 am

You definitely need to peel. It’s best to slice them into pieces, maybe 1/2 inch or so. Then blanch for just one minute. Don’t do more than a minute because it might make them mushy. Other than that, just pop them in a freezer bag and you should be ready to go!

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T.M. Brown 12/05/2018 - 3:16 pm

I was completely unaware of this vegetable’s existence!!! Wow! That’s a huge gourd! I’ll have to keep my eye out for them now.

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Dawn 12/05/2018 - 6:00 pm

They really are neat critters. They’re hard to find in the US, I don’t know about other countries.

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Kathy Phillips 12/04/2018 - 2:27 pm

I have never heard of these before. I will have to try one. Thanks for the advice on not eating the raw and peeling them. I bet they were great cooked. Thanks for the post.

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Dawn 12/04/2018 - 9:49 pm

They are really wonderful cooked! Raw? Not so much! You would know to peel them if you feel one, they are REALLY fuzzy!

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Kirsten 12/03/2018 - 4:31 pm

What a fun vegetable! I’ve never tried this before.

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Dawn 12/03/2018 - 5:01 pm

They really are cool! I’m hoping to get an earlier start this spring so I can see if I can grow an even bigger one (just because I can!)

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Dennis 12/03/2018 - 2:10 pm

I love this! I might need to try planting some.

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Dawn 12/03/2018 - 5:02 pm

They’re great, and really easy to grow! Just make sure to give them a good-sized support, the vines themselves are quite large.

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Monica 12/03/2018 - 9:00 am

I never knew what these were called, but have had them before. I agree, way better cooked. Might have to add them into the garden next year.I normally just chop them up and sauté in butter and garlic, though I’m sure there are way better recipes out there.

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Dawn 12/03/2018 - 11:02 am

Ooooh, but that sounds good! Anything involving the word garlic has my vote!

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Robin 12/02/2018 - 10:12 pm

Never heard of that! How cool! Thanks for sharing 😁

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Dawn 12/03/2018 - 11:01 am

You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.

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Jennifer Morrison 12/02/2018 - 7:48 pm

I cannot believe how long they grew! How prolific!

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Dawn 12/03/2018 - 11:01 am

They are really cool!

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Lauri 12/01/2018 - 1:55 pm

I love growing and eating squash and now I must try this one! We like to grill squash, hopefully this will work just as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Dawn 12/01/2018 - 4:16 pm

You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it!

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Lauta 12/01/2018 - 11:13 am

That is a crazy veggie!

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Dawn 12/01/2018 - 11:28 am

Isn’t it??

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Michele Vadnais 12/01/2018 - 9:04 am

Whoa! I’ve never heard of this either! But we love growing squash so maybe this gourd will be a good addition this spring! Thanks for sharing your find!

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Dawn 12/01/2018 - 9:19 am

You’re welcome! Have fun!

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Susan Franklin 12/01/2018 - 7:05 am

Wow – I wasn’t aware of this veggie or how big they could grow! It’s amazing that it would be so difficult to cut through, they look soft like the zucchini. I like the idea of it staying firm when cooked. We use zucchini for noodles and yes, after cooking, they get mushy! Thanks for opening my eyes to something new!

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Dawn 12/01/2018 - 9:20 am

You’re welcome! They’re quite easy to cut through when they’re of eating size. It’s only when they get humongous that they get like rocks, but I really wanted seeds to save (plus I wanted to see how big it would actually get!)

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Flor 11/30/2018 - 6:26 pm

I have never heard of it! It’s so cool! Thanks for sharing!

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 7:59 pm

You’re welcome! They’re apparently really common in Italy but not in this country. I’m doing my best to spread awareness. 🙂

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Jocelyn 11/30/2018 - 1:11 pm

Very interesting! I would love to try a Cucuzza! I’ll have to find one somehow. Thanks for sharing!

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 1:20 pm

They are fun. I did put a link in the post to a company that sells the seeds. It appears that seedsavers.org may also have them.

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Nicki 11/30/2018 - 12:33 pm

Very cool looking vegetable! I like the idea of it not turning to mush too!

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 12:56 pm

Right???!!! It’s great!

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Katie 11/30/2018 - 11:57 am

Omg, you speak to my soul, I love weird squash and save seeds from all kinds! Two questions, since the hold op instead of mushing, have you tried zoodling them? And in your research did it happen to mention how they grow in zone 9?

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 12:55 pm

I don’t think I ever tried zoodling them but I would think they would work really well. I looked up about zone 9. It doesn’t say specifically, but they prefer Mediterranean climates. I assume that means they like the heat (and they certainly take off here when the weather gets really warm) so I would guess they would do fine. If you can grow zucchini, I would think you could grow them, they seem very similar in their growth habits (obviously other than that cucuzza CLIMBS like crazy!)

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Tonya | the Writer Mom 11/30/2018 - 9:59 am

Cool! Never heard of it before.

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 10:15 am

They are really cool!

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Jo 11/30/2018 - 8:36 am

Yeesh! That thing is BIG! Never heard of it before and not a big squash or zucchini fan, myself, but interested to learn about it regardless!

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 10:15 am

They can get a lot bigger than that. We were going to get a frost so I had to bring it in. Next time I grow them, I’m going to try to get an earlier start to see how big I can get one to grow.

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Angela 11/30/2018 - 8:22 am

Impressive growth for sure! Love the info on an unfamiliar Gourd! Also glad your hubby still has his hand 🙂 thanks!

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 10:14 am

Haha, me too!

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Karie 11/29/2018 - 10:36 pm

Never heard of this but it looks yummy like a zuccini. I might have to try one when we get our garden going again.

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Dawn 11/30/2018 - 10:14 am

It tastes similar to a zucchini, although not identical. I do like zucchini raw and I’m not a fan of this raw, but once you put it in a recipe, it basically replaces zucchini, without the mush.

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Katie Mitchell 11/29/2018 - 8:01 pm

Woah! That’s massive! ha. I’m with you, though. Love zucchini, hate how it turns to mush. This would be a good alternative!

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Dawn 11/29/2018 - 9:05 pm

It really is! Even after freezing, it’s not mushy, which is awesome! I wouldn’t suggest eating one as big as that one, they’re best at about a foot long, but it was fun growing it to see how big it would get. Probably would have gotten bigger if the stupid frost hadn’t stopped the growing season.

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Nikki 11/29/2018 - 2:59 pm

How interesting. I may need to give them a try just for the challenge..lol..and of course because I pretty love all vegetables and have to admit that though I love zucchini I hate when it gets all mashed up when cooked. Thanks for the tip

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Dawn 11/29/2018 - 3:13 pm

They really are awesome! Beyond the difficulty getting them to germinate, the actual growing is really quite easy. As I mentioned, they pretty much laugh at bugs (I think because of their extreme fuzziness, they really do feel like velvet or a small furry animal), and although they need support because the vines are so large, they aren’t picky about anything else that I can see. I didn’t really do anything to them the year I grew them, not even water because it happened to be a good year that way.

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janice sisemore 11/29/2018 - 2:39 pm

Wow, never heard of that veg

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Dawn 11/29/2018 - 2:52 pm

Most people haven’t, and in alot of ways, they’re soooo much nicer than zucchini, I’m surprised they’re not more popular.

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Laura 11/29/2018 - 1:08 pm

Wow! How cool! I’ve never heard of these before. I hacksaw? Not sure about that. Don’t have one. But I’ll try to find a way to eat there somehow sometime soon. Thanks for the recommendation.

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Dawn 11/29/2018 - 2:51 pm

You only need the hacksaw if you let them get big enough for seed, I promise. Otherwise, they’re just like regular squash to peel.

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jen 11/29/2018 - 12:30 pm

I have never heard of this! Wow! Cool! Thank you for sharing!
https://thisfamilyblog.com

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Dawn 11/29/2018 - 2:50 pm

You’re welcome! They’re yummy!

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