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Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative Report 3:47 (article 27) 1980

Systematics of the Melon-Squash

R. W. Robinson and J. T. Puchalski

New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456 (first author); Botanical Garden of the Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, Poland (second author)

Sensational claims have been made for the 'Melon-squash', also known as the 'Tahitian' squash, which was introduced by the Thompson and Morgan Seed Co. in 1977. It has been described in Horticulture Magazine (January, 1977) and in seed catalogs as being Cucurbita maxima, yet it has cushaw-shaped fruit with a hard peduncle, quite atypical for that species but more characteristic of C. moschata or C. mixta.

Its purported origin is exotic. It is claimed to be an introduction from the isle of Tahiti. Cucurbita is native to the Americas, not the polynesian islands, although C. maxima was introduced to Tahiti in 1767 (1).

Remarkable gustatory qualities have been attributed to the 'Melon-squash'. It is claimed to have the texture of a carrot and the flavor and fragrance of a cantaloupe. A seed catalog described it as being the sweetest squash of the century. It is asserted to be delicious when eaten raw like a melon or cooked like a potato.

We grew the 'Melon-squash' to determine its botanical identity and to evaluate its horticultural qualities. It proved to be very prolific, bearing over 100 lbs of squash per plant. The fruit were large, averaging 18 lbs each, extremely variable in size and shape, and similar in appearance to the 'Golden Cushaw' cultivar of C. moschata. The fruit were of good quality for winter squash and stored well. Its flavor when eaten raw was only faintly reminiscent of a muskmelon, and, although lacking the fragrance of a muskmelon and inferior in flavor, was not disliked by a tasted panel. However, the quality of being palatable uncooked is not unique to the 'Melon-squash'; the taste panel found raw Butternut squash to be equally good and the soluble solids content of Butternut fruit was the same as that of the 'Melon-squash'.

Reciprocal crosses between the 'Melon-squash' and several cultivars of C. maxima were all unsuccessful. No fruit set was obtained from ten crosses between 'Melon-squash' and C. mixta cv. 'Striped Cushaw'. But the 'Melon-squash' crosses readily with C. moschata and produced fully fertile hybrids with Butternut.

Electrophoretic analyses of esterases, peroxidases, and peptidases revealed that the isozymes of the 'Melon-squash' are unlike C. maxima but are typical of C. moschata. The isozyme patterns for the 'Melon-squash' differed from that for the Cucurbita species andreana, cordata, cylindrata, digitata, ecuadorensis, ficifolia, foetidissima, gracilior, lundelliana, martinezii, mixta, okeechobeensis, palmata, palmeri, pepo, sororia, and texana.

It is concluded that the 'Melon-squash' is nothing more than a highly variable, large fruited type of C. moschata, and it is doubtful that it is of polynesian origin.

Literature Cited

  1. Merrill, E. D. 1954. The botany of Cook's voyages. Chron. Bot. 14:164-383.
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Page citation: Wehner, T.C., Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative;
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