Cucurbits

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

cucurbits an extensive family of plants with a vinelike habit of growth. Many bear edible fruits which, whether they are eaten as fruits or as vegetables, have well-established common names: the various kinds of sweet and ‘pickling’ melon, the watermelon, the cucumber, gherkin, the chayote, the cassabanana, and the kiwano, all treated in their respective entries, are examples of these.

However, within the family Cucurbitaceae there is one genus, Cucurbita, which poses intractable problems of nomenclature, because the common names in use tend to be loosely applied, vary from one part of the world to another, and overlap with each other. The names in question are pumpkin, gourd, summer squash (including marrow/zucchini/courgette), and winter squash; and there is no fully effective way of sorting out the confusion.