Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Barbary Squash

I was fascinated to see the pumpkin show up twice in the French Republican calendar during the month of October: once for Vendemiaire 13 (October 4 to us) under the name potiron, and again on Vendemiaire 17 (Oct 8) under the name citrouille.

According to one website I found,
the potiron is Cucurbita moschata or the European pumpkin, which is described as having a tender, springy cylindrical stem, flared at the joining and orange-yellow or green flesh, while the Citrouille is Cucurbita pepo, the familiar Halloween pumpkin, with a hard smooth orange skin, dry, sweet yellow-orange flesh and a hard fibrous, five-sided stem and no bulge at the joining.

This website
which has a really annoying moving pop-up, says that Cucurbita moschata is an oblong pumpkin with a tan skin and is mostly used for canned pumpkin.

But when I type in Cucurbita moschata into Google Image search I get lots of different kinds of squashes, including what I consider butternut squash. Here’s a Danish (?) web site with pictures of many different varieties of Cucurbita:
According to the pictures at Louie’s Pumpkin Patch, the genus Cucurbita moschata includes butternut and many other types of squashes including a green one called Musque de Provence. I just love that name.

There are also many great pictures of Cucurbita moschata at this web sit:
at which they are called Calabaza.

All pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes cucumbers, zucchini, squash and gourds. DeWit says that pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) were unknown in Europe until the sixteenth century and that they originated in southwestern North America. Europeans took the plant seeds back home along with seeds for Cucurbita maxima (autumn and winter squash) and the “mushy” Cucurbita moschata which he calls Barbary squash.

There’s a great entry on pumpkins in Plants for a Future:
They mention medicinal uses of pumpkin seeds by Native Americans who used a flour made of ground seeds to expel tapeworms. The seeds are also high in zinc.

Of course, pumpkin is best known for making delicious food. I found some links for recipes calling for Potiron at the French food section of
Be warned: this is one of those web sites with nasty pop-ups.

deWit, H.C. D., Plants of the World, The Higher Plants I, Dutton 1966