Herb: Winter Squash

Latin name: Cucurbita maxima

Synonyms: Cucurbita maxima andreana, Cucurbita maxima turbaniformis

Family: Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber Family, Gourd Family)

Medicinal use of Winter Squash:

The seeds are diuretic, tonic and vermifuge. The complete seed, together with the husk, is used as a vermifuge. This is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children. The oil from the seed is used as a nerve tonic. The fruit pulp is used as a soothing poultice on burns, inflammations and boils.

Description of the plant:

Annual Climber

60 cm
(2 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Winter Squash:

Fruit - cooked. A delicious flavour when baked, rather like a sweet potato. The flesh can be dried, ground into a powder and used with cereals in making bread, cakes etc. Some varieties can be stored for up to 9 months. Seed - raw or cooked. Rich in oil with a very pleasant nutty flavour but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat. The seed can also be ground into a powder and used with cereals in making breads etc. An oil is obtained from the seed. Young flowers - raw or cooked. They are often dipped in batter and fried. Young leaves and stems - cooked. The leaves contain up to 5% protein.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed contains 34 - 54% of a semi-drying oil. Used for lighting. A nourishing face-mask can be made from the fruit that is effective for dry skins.

Propagation of Winter Squash:

Seed - sow early to mid spring in a greenhouse in a rich soil. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. Sow 2 or 3 seeds per pot and thin out to the best plant. Grow them on fast and plant out after the last expected frosts, giving them cloche or frame protection for at least their first few weeks if you are trying them outdoors.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Cucurbita maxima:

The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.