Cucuzzas are special vegetables that grow like extra-long summer squashes.Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton
Peeled, seeded and cubed cucuzza squash makes a hearty pasta sauce when simmered with garden-fresh tomatoes.Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
There are plenty of special types of produce that don’t get the attention they deserve. Cucuzza (pronounced ku-KOO-za) is one of those special vegetables. This plant is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, but is more like a gourd, botanically speaking.
A popular vegetable with a long history in southern Italy, cucuzza would be a fun addition to next year’s garden. These long, snake-like fruits grow on vines that need to be trellised to let them get to their 2-3 foot lengths. The light green skin covers creamy white flesh that has a slightly nutty taste.
Like other summer squash, cucuzzas can be eaten at any stage of maturity. When young and tender, the seeds are small and edible; however, older fruits have large, inedible seeds that need to be removed before cooking.
There many ways to prepare the fruits, from sauces to soups and even desserts. They can be baked, fried, grilled, and candied. Because they hold their shape during cooking and baking, they make delicious stuffed squash boats. A traditional preparation is to slice, fry and serve with eggs.
Even though they’re similar to zucchini, cucuzzas need to be peeled before cooking. The tough outer skin can be simmered with other vegetable peels to make a vegetable broth or tossed onto the compost pile.
One long cucuzza offered more than enough to turn into several different recipes. These fruits store well in the fridge after harvesting, but need to be used before the fruits start to soften.
In planning ahead for next season, I scooped out the largest seeds to dry and try to grow next gardening season. I’ll need to make sure there’s plenty of space in the garden and a strong trellis to support these specialy squashes.
Have you grown cucuzzas in your vegetable garden? If so, please share your planting tips!