Cucurbits are an extensive family of plants that you may not know by their scientific name, but that you surely know at least in part. How many times have you eaten or held a melon, a cucumber, a pumpkin or a watermelon? All these fruits are produced by edible cucurbits . In fact, cucurbits and nightshades are one of the most important crops for humans, with vegetables being consumed throughout the world.
If you want to learn what cucurbits are and what characteristics they have, join us in this AgroCorrn article in which we detail what cucurbits are, their characteristics and diseases , among more details and examples.
What are cucurbits
Plants are classified into different botanical families and, specifically, the Cucurbitaceae or Cucurbitaceae are one of these large families.
These are plants that have, for the most part, origin in tropical or subtropical areas , so they develop well in warm areas or at least without cold winters, since some have managed to migrate successfully to some European climates. They are very important plant species, both for human consumption and for many animals.
Characteristics of cucurbits
The vast majority of these plants are annuals or spend the unfavorable months surviving underground with their bulbs , rhizomes , tubers or the like. For the rest, almost all its other characteristics vary greatly depending on each specific species, although we can find some general characteristics of the most shared cucurbits :
- These are species that are easy to grow.
- They produce cucurbitacins, which give a bitter taste to the plant and its green fruits so that they are not. consumed before ripening.
- They are plants with a considerable need for land, they are bulky.
- They tend to display heart-shaped flowers.
Examples of cucurbit species
Cucurbits are a family with more than 700 species, but there are some that are especially common for us due to their widespread consumption and cultivation. These are some of the most well-known or important species of cucurbits :
Pumpkin and zucchini
Pumpkin is a hard-shelled berry, highly valued in virtually the entire world for its great nutritional value. Gastronomies around the world use pumpkin for its flavor and nutrients, particularly popular in pastry.
Something that not everyone knows is that zucchini is nothing more than a type of immature pumpkin, collected before the skin hardens. In some species, the immature fruit is toxic, although others, among which are obviously those that are marketed as such, are perfectly suitable for consumption. These are in fact, along with cucumbers, the most popular edible-skinned cucurbits.
Another fruit widely spread for its excellent nutritional and antioxidant properties, the cucumber is as well known gastronomically as it is cosmetically. Its taste is very refreshing, making it particularly popular in summer and hot climates.
Here you can learn how to sow and grow cucumbers .
Another of the best known cucurbits with inedible skin, the melon is one of the great stars of the greengrocers when the heat arrives. It has a very sweet taste and its cultivation is incredibly widespread, with a huge diversity of varieties and species. It is particularly rich in water, vitamins, and sugar.
Watermelon is an excellent ally against high temperatures due to its great contribution of water and its refreshing taste, less sweet than melon. Its easy cultivation makes it very popular in environments for gardening enthusiasts, since its fruit is large and striking.
Cultivation of cucurbits
Here are some basic indications for the cultivation of cucurbits :
- Most cucurbits are best planted in seedbeds, to later be transplanted to their final location once the seedling is not so susceptible to weather conditions.
- This is the case of plants such as squash or cucumber, whose seedlings can be planted in mid-winter, to be transplanted in spring, once the frosts and cold have passed. Others, however, such as melon and watermelon, are usually planted at the beginning of spring, respecting at least one meter of distance between plants and being able to be harvested between mid and late summer.
- Cucurbits are not demanding with the soil, but they do require good drainage and regular waterings that maintain humidity so that they can fatten their large fruits.
Pests and diseases of cucurbitaceae
Cucurbit diseases and pests are well known due to their widespread cultivation, and this is probably their weakest point.
Excessive irrigation, or poorly managed irrigation that causes flooding, can frequently cause diseases such as powdery mildew in cucurbits , which can be fought by keeping humidity controlled with drip irrigation or looking for a sunnier and better ventilated location. Here you can learn more about how to combat powdery mildew with home remedies .
In a similar way occurs with mildew in cucurbits , another fungus that appears when there is excessive humidity, poor aeration and temperatures between 10ºC and 20ºC. Pruning to improve plant ventilation can help in these cases. Here we tell you more about How to combat mildew .