Calabaza squash (Cucurbita moschata) is a tasty, easy-to-grow variety of winter squash that’s native to and extremely popular in Latin America. While it’s less common in the United States, it’s not hard to grow and can be very rewarding, particularly when used in Latin American cooking. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow Calabaza squash plants and Calabaza squash uses.
What is Calabaza Squash?
Calabaza squash plants, also known as Cuban squash and Zapollo, are useful because they’re especially resistant to pests and disease that can devastate other squash varieties. They’re not totally immune, of course, and can fall prey to downy mildew, powdery mildew and the slew of bugs that attack squash like aphids, cucumber beetle and squash vine borer.
Compared to their cousins, however, Calabaza squash plants are quite tough. They’re also long, vigorous and vining, which means they can overpower weeds in their vicinity. Basically, they’re good at taking care of themselves.
How to Grow Calabaza Squash
Growing Calabaza squash is very similar to growing other varieties of squash and are used much the same way too. In fact, it was one of the first cultivated squash plants grown in the “Three Sisters” garden. Calabaza squash plants have a relatively long growing season and are extremely frost tender.
In cold climates, seeds should be sown in the spring as soon as all chance of frost has passed. In reliably frost free areas, they can be planted anytime from late summer to early spring. The plants are very heat tolerant.
The vines are long, reaching as much as 50 feet, and must be given room to spread. Each vine produces 2 to 5 fruits that tend to weigh between 5 and 12 pounds, but can weigh as much as 50 pounds. These fruits take 45 days to ripen – although a mature squash develops a waxy coating over its initial shine, simply counting the days from fruit set is the best way to tell that it’s ready for harvest.
If kept between 50 and 55 degrees F. (10 and 12 degrees C.), the fruits can be stored for up to three months.