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Cucuzza squash is an Italian summer squash which can be used in much the same way that zucchini and other summer squashes are. In addition to being a source of nutrition, dried cucuzza squash can also be made into a drinking gourd, leading to an alternate name of “bottle gourd.” Technically, cucuzza is truly a gourd, and it is not in the same genus as other summer squashes, but since it is handled in the same way, most people refer to it as a squash for convenience.
The skin of this squash is pale green, and the flesh is pure white. As is the case with other gourds, the cucuzza must be peeled before eating, although the seeds are perfectly edible. In shape, the squash is quite elongated, looking rather like a pale and oversized zucchini. Many producers sell cucuzza squash with the stem on, as the stem can continue to nourish the fruit after picking.
The season for the vegetable tends to be around June through September, sometimes stretching later in more temperate climates. When seeking out cucuzza squash in the store, look for a glossy firm specimen with no soft spots or signs of discoloration. The vegetable can be kept under refrigeration for around one week, at which point it should be used.
Unlike other summer squash, cucuzza squash is most palatable when it is cooked before consumption. It can be used in stews, soups, and stir fries. It may also be fried or stuffed and baked. When stuffing cucuzza, many cooks prefer to leave the skin on to act like a bowl for the squash and its stuffing. For a plain but tasty dish, try halving a squash, drizzling the squash in olive oil, sprinkling freshly cracked salt and pepper on top, and broiling it for a few minutes.
To grow cucuzza squash in a temperate climate, plant seedlings out after the last risk of frost, spacing them well apart to allow the training vines to grow. For a better yield, provide trellises for the vines to grow on. Prepare the soil well before planting by working mulch and compost into it, and keep the cucuzza plants well watered as they grow. Ripe squash pull naturally away from the vine, or you can cut them off, leaving part of the stem intact, if preferred. Allow the squash to dry on the vine if you intend to make drinking gourds.