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.
- Merrill, E. D. 1954. The botany of Cook's voyages. Chron.