Cushaw Squash Plants – How And When To Plant Cushaw Squash

Cushaw Squash Plants – How And When To Plant Cushaw Squash

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If you reside in the American South, you may already be familiar with growing cushaw squash. An heirloom crookneck squash from the family Cucurbitaceae, cushaw squash plants have a number of benefits over other winter squash varieties. So how to grow cushaw squash plants and what other interesting information can we dig up?

Cushaw Squash Plant Info

Cushaw (Cucurbita argyrosperma) hails from the Caribbean and, thus, tolerates humid conditions. This squash is a green striped, crook-necked variety cultivated by Native Americans as a staple food. Fruit averages 10-20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kg.), grows to 12-18 inches (30.5 to 45.5 cm) in length and is around 10 inches (30.5 cm.) across.

The flesh is light yellow and the flavor is mildly sweet. Cushaw squash is also often referred to as cushaw pumpkin or in Appalachia, as the Tennessee sweet potato. Maturing in late summer to fall, this hard-shelled winter squash can be used in sweet or savory dishes and is often used, especially in Appalachia, as a replacement for pumpkin in pies.

Some Native cultures also ate the toasted seeds or ground them for use in sauces and stuffed and/or fried the blossoms. This squash has long been popular in Creole and Cajun cuisine and the making of cushaw butter is still a family tradition in areas of Tennessee.

One of the most important New World food crops, cushaw squash is believed to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica between 7,000 and 3,000 B.C. Intrigued? Read on to find out when to plant cushaw and other growing information for cushaw squash.

When to Plant Cushaw Squash

This winter squash is so termed due to its lengthy storage time of up to four months during the winter. During this time, it was an invaluable source of vitamin C and other nutrients for Native Peoples and New World settlers alike.

Growing cushaw squash is also resistant to the squash vine borer, a voracious pest that kills most other squash. This may be one reason for the longevity of cushaw squash varieties; they simply survived outbreaks of borers that killed other types of squash. This type of squash also has a great tolerance for heat with little irrigation.

Plant cushaw squash after the last frost or start two weeks prior to the last frost in your area.

How to Grow Cushaw Squash

The ideal soil pH level for growing cushaw squash is between 6.0 and 7.5. Use a soil test to determine if your soil needs amending. Ground limestone and wood ash can raise the pH level while gypsum and sulfur will lower pH levels. Also, incorporate two inches (5 cm.) or so of organic matter into the soil to supply nitrogen to the growing squash.

Create mounds of soil, 4-6 feet (1 to 2 m.) apart, 6 inches (15 cm.) high and a foot (0.5 m.) across. Be sure to allow plenty of space for the rampant vines. If the soil is dry, moisten it. Now you’re ready to either transplant your seedlings or direct sow. Wait until the temp is at least 60 F. (15 C.) to direct sow. Plant four to six seeds per hill, then thin out to the strongest seedlings.

Like other squash varieties, cushaw partners beautifully with the Three Sisters, a traditional Native method of cultivation involving squash, corn, and beans. Other companion plantings include:

  • Celery
  • Dill
  • Nasturtium
  • Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Mint
  • Marigold
  • Oregano
  • Borage

Vegetables and Fruit forum→Squash thread

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On the other vine from the same seed packet is this squash. It's smaller and shaped more "normal".

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

I order peppers seeds from them.

Newyorkrita said: Kitazawa is great. So many really unusual vegetable seeds.

I order peppers seeds from them.

I used to order from them too.

I've grown trombocino, picked some early as a summer squash- a different texture. I guess species explains that? Also saved a couple as winter squash, they kept forever.

Now if only there was a yellow squash substitute that didn't get borers..

I bet my neighbors miss them too!!

here's a pic from last year.

I've been getting cucumber worms in the squash. which means those affected squash are getting picked early this season.

I use as taters.
Cream of tater soup, with squash substituted for taters, venison stew with squash, fried taters, using squash instead of taters.

Shockingly, my cushaw taste like taters! I thought I remembered them being sweet when I grew them in TN.

farmerdill said: I grow Green Striped Cushaw from time to time .

I like the cushaw as a pie pumpkin. They are sweet without the clinginess of a sweet potato. Problem here in Georgia is that I have to plant them early and harvest in midsummer heat.

Any that set after July Fourth are going to be destroyed by the pickle worm.

Ok. thanks for the confirmation. I thought that I remembered them as a sweet squash. so. it's either the white sand changing the taste (this happens with a lot of crops), or the seed stock that I have is different from the usual.

I actually do like them as taters. it's worth keeping this landrace going.

The cucumber worm got into the early crookneck and zucchini, even watermelons. Not sure that it matters about the date. I think this is an extreme year for them.

Growing Squash in Containers: Green Striped Cushaw

Growing squash in containers, or small defined areas, came easy for my friend MJ. One morning she woke up and saw a splattered squash on the street. Looking directly above the crime scene in her two-story loquat tree hung three similar shaped fruits. She followed the vine which led her 20 feet to her arbor built next to her compost bin. There she had been composting her niece’s rabbit droppings, which had sprouted an unassuming squash-like vine which now spanned thirty plus feet. Waiting a few more days she harvested the three squash which weighed close to 15 pounds each.

The squashes turned out to be green striped cushaw (Cucurbita mixta). MJ happily ate and shared raw, cooked, stewed and canned. After eating the meat and seeds of the first one, she realized she hit it big and saved the seeds, which is how I grew my first green striped cushaws last summer.

How to Grow Squash

Deciding when to plant squash and where is as important as choosing what variety is appropriate, not only in your climate, but microclimate. With an oblong shape, crooked necks and bulbous bottoms, the cushaw vines are vigorous and produce well here in the South. The skin is light green with mottled green stripes. The most attractive characteristic of the cushaw is the plant is heat tolerant and resistant to the squash vine borer. Other squash and pumpkin that are not protected with pesticides, often succumb to the vine borer. This species of squash allows me to maintain being organic and worry-free. Cushaw squash is believed to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica several thousand years B.C.E.

Growing squash in containers, especially summer and bush varieties, is easy. A well-fertilized, wide-mouthed 5-gallon bucket or pot can handle one or two zucchinis or one cushaw. Vining varieties will benefit from a sturdy trellis or arbor. Squash thrive in warm temperatures with full sun and steady moisture. A soil with a large amount of organic matter (well-decomposed manure and compost) will provide enough nutrients for the growing season. While squash can grow in soil with a pH of 5.5-7.5, 6.0-6.7 is ideal.

How to Plant Squash

Directly sowing from spring to mid-summer is the preferred method of planting squash, since transplanting can disturb the roots which most cucurbits do not handle well. Sow the seeds 18 to 30 inches apart and one inch deep. Sowing in the mid-summer will troubleshoot some problems such as common pests or diseases popular with a spring planting.

After directly sowing my seeds into an ornamental bed, my hope was that they would spill over onto the unused lawn. Instead, they acted like their parent and sought out my 15 foot tall Feijoa tree. The vine grew energetically through the summer then cascaded back down to the ground where it grew leaves close together. The flowers, which are palatable for humans, were fed to my bearded dragon, cockatoo and backyard chickens. Flowers for human consumption can be stuffed and fried.

In the end I harvested two fruits, one off of each vine, and I couldn’t be happier. Getting out the bathroom scale, one fruit weighed 3 pounds and the other weighed 10. It’s as if I got 13 pounds of squash for three minutes of work. I have no doubt that I could have gotten a dozen squash if I had not removed so many flowers.

Companion planting for a cushaw is much like other squash including corn and beans, which help balance the nutrients in the soil. Daikon radishes and nasturtiums, an edible flowering vine, have also been noted for growing well with the squash. Both of these companion plants deter pests such as aphids and beetles.

In the Kitchen

So far, the 10 pound fruit, which was cut into half, produced 20 cups of grated squash resulting in six large “zucchini” loafs. The other half of the squash is slowly being cooked with or eaten raw by humans and the skin is being fed raw to my chickens.

Cucurbita mixta and other cucurbits have many health benefits including being an anti-inflammatory. The beta carotene in the meat and seeds may help with arthritis. The large amounts of vitamins A, C, E and zinc may also aid in keeping your skin healthy by stimulating new cell growth and reducing bacteria that causes acne.

I have read that it both stores well and that it does not store well. It reminds me so much of a standard zucchini that I would assume it does not hold up well for too long. The average fruits are 10 to 20 pounds, with a length of 12 to 18 inches. The flesh is yellow, sweet and mild. I would highly recommend growing this squash. It takes on average of 95 days to go from seed to fruit. Those living in northern states could plant it in spring, after the danger of frost. If you do not have access to MJ’s niece’s rabbit droppings, high quality seeds are available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Growing squash in containers allows flexibility for those who want this summer staple but lack the space. What is your favorite squash variety to grow? Let us know in the comments below.

Squash Growing Problems: Troubleshooting

Squash Growing Problems are often avoided if you grow squash when temperatures are warm at night. Plant in compost rich, well-drained soil.

Squash growing success will come with a few simple growing strategies:

Plant several squash plants. This will ensure at least one is successful and survives pests and diseases. Stagger planting times or plant seed and transplants at the same time for continuous harvest.

Give squash the space recommended. Check spacing requirements for each variety you grow. If the garden is tight, contain the plant by pinching out the growing tips after a vine has set a few fruits. Don’t grow squash too close together this will help deter pests and diseases.

Pick squash at the right time. Pick summer squashes when they are young and tender. Let winter squashes and pumpkins mature until their rinds are dull and hard. Pick and toss any fruit that is discolored or rotting before other plants or fruits are affected.

Time to plant. Sow squash or set out transplants about 2 weeks after the last expected frost in spring. Sow or plant successive crops 4 weeks later.

How to plant. Sow seed or set transplants in raised mounds at least 1 foot across. Place a generous amount of aged compost into each planting hill before planting.

Outwit pests. Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers must be controlled to successfully grow squash. Place floating row covers over young squash plants until they start to bloom. This will exclude attacking insects until plants are strong enough to withstand pest damage.

Train plants up stakes or trellises. Training summer squash up stakes or trellises will increase air circulation and keep plants off the ground and clean and away from pests and diseases.

Keep ahead of squash problems, pests and diseases. Here is a troubleshooting list of possible squash problems with brief control suggestions. For a full description of pests and diseases and prevention and controls click over to the Pest Problem Solver of the Disease Problem Solver. For squash growing details click to How to Grow Summer Squash and How to Grow Winter Squash.

Here are squash problems described and suggested controls and prevention:

• Plants are eaten or cut off near soil level. Cutworms are gray grubs ½- to ¾-inch long that can be found curled under the soil. They chew stems, roots, and leaves. Place a 3-inch paper collar around the stem of the plant. Keep the garden free of weeds sprinkle wood ash around base of plants.

• Leaves curl under and become deformed and yellowish. Aphids are tiny, oval, and yellowish to greenish pear-shaped insects that colonize on the undersides of leaves. They leave behind sticky excrement called honeydew which can turn into a black sooty mold. Use insecticidal soap.

• Leaves turn pale green, yellow, or brown dusty silver webs on undersides of leaves and between vines. Spider mites suck plant juices causing stippling. Spray with water or use insecticidal soap or rotenone. Ladybugs and lacewings eat mites.

• Leaves yellow tiny white winged insects around plants. Whiteflies will congregate on the undersides of leaves and fly up when disturbed. Remove infested leaves and the whole plant if infestation is serious. Introduce beneficial insects into the garden.

• Holes chewed in leaves, leaves skeletonized runners and young fruit scarred. Spotted cucumber beetle is greenish, yellowish, ¼ inch (7mm) long with black spots and black head. Striped cucumber beetle has wide black stripes on wing covers. Hand pick mulch around plants plant resistant varieties dust with wood ashes. Cultivate before planting to disrupt insect life cycle.

• Holes in leaves and flowers tunnels in vines and fruits. Pickle worms are the larvae of night-flying moths. Moths lay eggs on squash plants. Caterpillars feed on leaves and inside vines and fruits. Pupae may be found inside rolled leaves. Exclude moths with floating row covers. Plant fast-maturing varieties to promote strong growth before pickleworms attack. Plant a few squash as trap crops. Keep garden clean.

• Leaves have yellow specks that turn brown, then black and crisp vines wilt from point of attack. Squash bug is a flat, shield-shaped black or brownish bug with a triangle on its back it sucks juices from plants. Trap adults beneath boards in spring, hand pick and destroy. Look under leaves for bugs.

• Runners wilt suddenly holes in stems near base of plant. Squash vine borer is a fat, white caterpillar with a brown head that emerges in late spring. It bores into stems to feed causing plants to wilt. Look for entrance holes where frass may accumulate slit vine with knife and remove borer bury runner at that point to re-root. Exclude adult moth with floating row covers. Time planting to avoid insect growth cycle. Plant resistant varieties.

• Round to angular spots on leaves, reddish brown to black. Anthracnose is a fungus disease that spreads in high humidity and rainfall. Leaves may wither and fall. Plant may die back. Generally found in eastern North America. Spray or dust with a fixed copper- or sulfur-based fungicide every 7 to 10 days. Remove and discard infected plants. Avoid working in the garden when it is wet which can result in spread of spores. Keep tools clean.

• Water-soaked blotches on leaves–not enlarging past leaf veins water-soaked spot can appear on fruits Angular leaf spot or bacterial spot is a waterborne bacterium which causes irregular geometric patterns on leaves. Spots may turn yellow and crisp. Avoid wetting foliage with irrigation. Prune off infected leaves and stems. Clean up garden. Plant disease-resistant varieties. Rotate crops up to 2 years.

• Round white powdery spots and coating on leaves. Powdery mildew is caused by fungal spores. Spores germinate on dry leaf surfaces when the humidity is high spores do not germinate on wet leaves. Common in late summer or fall but does not result in loss of plant. Avoid water stress. Pick off infected leaves.

• Irregular yellowish to brownish spots on upper leaf surfaces grayish powder or mold on undersides. Downy mildew is caused by a fungus. Improve air circulation. Plant resistant varieties. Rotate crops. Keep garden free of plant debris.

• Mottled, distorted leaves. Mosaic virus causes leaves to become thickened, brittle, easily broken from plant plants are stunted and yields are poor. The virus is spread from plant to plant by aphids and cucumber beetles. Remove diseased plants. Remove broadleaf weeds that serve as virus reservoir.

• Vines wilt suddenly and die starting with one or two leaves. Bacterial wilt clogs the circulatory system of plants. It is caused by bacteria that live in cucumber beetles and is seen often where the soil stays moist. Remove and destroy infected plants before the disease spreads. Control cucumber beetles with rotenone or sabadilla. Wash hands and clean tools with a bleach solution.

• Plants are stunted and yellow runners gradually die. Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease which infects plant vascular tissues. Fungal spores live in the soil and can be carried by cucumber beetles. Plant disease-resistant varieties. Rotate crops. Remove and destroy infected plants. Fungicides are not effective.

• Water-soaked or pale green spot on leaves that turn white fruit cracks. Scab is caused by soilborne bacterium. Disease can be cosmetic. Plant resistant varieties. If scab occurs, change varieties next year. Sulfur may be worked into soil to make it slightly acid and reduce disease.

• Stems on older plants appear water soaked and turn into cracked brown cankers fruits become water soaked. Gummy stem blight and black rot are fungus diseases. Infections can girdle stems can cause collapse. Remove and destroy infected vines. Rotate crops where fungus can persist. Grow powdery mildew resistant plants.

• Some seeds fail to germinate and come up. Some squash seed are “hard” and resistant to water uptake necessary for sprouting. Soak seed in tepid water for 24 hours before planting this will increase germination and decrease sprouting time slightly. Dry seed before planting.

• Early flowers don’t set fruit. A couple of possible reasons: (1) the first flowers to appear are male female flower appear next. Fruit is produced by female flowers. Wait until female flowers appear and are pollinated. (2) There may not be enough pollinators, mostly bees, to carry the pollen from male to female flowers. Pick off male flowers and dust the pollen into the female flowers.

• Few fruits form even though plants are flowering. Not enough bees. The more bees the more flowers that are likely to set fruit. The average size of a squash is increased when the vine is pollinated by many bees.

• Small fruits form then dry up. Female flowers may have blossomed before the male flowers so the female flowers went unpollinated. When female and male flowers blossom at the same time pollination will occur and fruit will grow.

• Dense white mold on blossoms or small fruits. Choanephora fruit rot is a fungus that grows on blossoms and developing fruit. Remove and destroy infected blossoms and fruits. Keep the garden clean of debris that can harbor fungus. Rotate crops.

• Too many fruits on the plant. Keep fruit picked from summer squash. When fruits are picked, new fruits will form. Winter squash is picked when the shell hardens.

Cushaw Pumpkin, Winter Squash 'White Cushaw'

Family: Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cucurbita (koo-KER-bih-ta) (Info)
Species: mixta (MIKS-tuh) (Info)
Cultivar: White Cushaw
Additional cultivar information:(aka Jonathon)
» View all varieties of Squash



Days to Maturity:

Mature Skin Color:

12 to 20 pounds (5 to 9 kg)


Disease Resistance:

Seed Type:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Propagation Methods:

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Foliage Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gardeners' Notes:

On Dec 2, 2005, macmex from Tahlequah, OK wrote:

I grew two different varieties of the White Cushaw, in Northern Indiana. Both did well for me. As Farmer Dill mentioned, a real plus for this squash is its vine borer resistance. White Cushaws tend to have very pale colored flesh. But it tastes fine. Vines are LARGE!

In 2006 I hope to grow out one of these varieties in Tahlequah, Oklahoma where we now live. I expect it to do well.

On Dec 30, 2003, Farmerdill from Augusta, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

The Jonathon pumpkin is a giant (15-20lb) crookneck with a white rind. Growth and quality is similar to the Green Striped Cushaw. Vines can grow up to 20 feet so space is required for this family. These are hard vine pumpkins so they are highly resistant to squash vine borers. Easy to grow and an outstanding pie pumpkin.

Watch the video: Cushaw Squash Varieties