Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Calabaza / Tropical Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata)

Calabaza is a squash variety, grown throughout Central - and South America as well in the Caribbean. It is a creeping, annual tropical vine with large lobed leaves and branching tendrils; the flesh of the fruit is bright orange. The flowers are yellow and pollination is done by bees. The leaves are mottled and grayish green in color. The fruits vary in size, shape, and color owing to outcrossing and strain selection. Some weigh up to 50 pounds. The most common form of fruit weighs about 5-12 pounds, and is round and flattened a bit on the top and bottom. Its colors are mottled green or yellow and buff-cream. The taste is sweet and Calabaza is used in many local dishes.

How to grow
Calabaza tolerates hot weather conditions as well as other members of the cucurbit family. It is a tender crop easily injured by frost and freezes. It should be planted early in the spring as soon as the danger of frost is past. USDA zone 9B - 11. Need full sun, rich warm soil with good drainage, water regularly. Sow the seed directly and it will germinate within 2 weeks. Plant spacing the rows should be spaced 6-9 feet apart, and the plants spaced 4 feet apart, in the row. Planting season is late spring and summer.

Maturity info
Approximately 90 days

Nutrition info
High in dietary fiber and rich in Vitamin A & C

Cooking info
It is eaten many different ways, such as in stews, cakes, and candies. Some recipes that call for pumpkin allow calabaza to be used in its place. The taste is smooth and somewhat sweet. The flower, is used as an ingredient in quesadillas in Mexican cuisine, and in pupusas in Salvadorian cuisine.

Medical uses
Tea from the leaves of calabaza is used against stomach inflammation and jaundice.
The seeds of Cucurbita species are also used; to immobilize and aid in expulsion of intestinal worms and parasites.
Another application is using the seeds in the treatment of prostate gland disorders.
The Cherokee Amerindians and those from Surinam used pumpkin seed as an anthelmintic and also as a pediatric urinary aid to treat bed-wetting.
Help to prevent common type of kidney stones

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