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Ozark Wild Squash

 
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Although I live in southwest ohio, I got the opportunity to visit a monastery just west of Tahlequah (Our Lady of Clear Creek) in the foothils of the Ozarks in Oklahoma last Summer. I found some wild squash while I was there. Unfortunately, I picked the squash before they were ripe and none of the seeds were viable. I was wondering if any members here from the Ozarks area were familiar with wild squash (Cucurbita pepo ssp. ozarkana). From my experience, the wild squash I found were bitter, soapy, and high in cucurbitacins. The squash were also yellow, smooth skinned and about the size of yellow crookneck squash. Other pictures I have seen of wild ozark squash show tan-white oviform or pyriform fruits about the size of a large goose egg. Some are even green with white stripes like Tennesse spinning gourds. I ended up buying some Ozark nest egg gourds from Baker Creek, but I wanted to know if anyone else from around the Ozarks has any pictures of them or any knowledge of them. Unlike buffalo gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima), these wild squash are closely related to crookneck squash and acorn squash and often freely hybridize with them. Below is a picture of the squash I found last Summer at the monastery.
2DF272A5-3F67-48A4-9865-DE8CECAAB85D.jpeg
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Cucurbita pepo ozarkana
 
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Wow!  Never heard of these.  Thank you Ryan.  If anyone has seeds to share please put me on the list.  I want to see how they do and make some intentional crosses badly!
 
Greg Martin
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Looks like it also goes by the name Johnny Gourd.
 
Greg Martin
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I'm going to order some from Baker Creek right now and this year the crossing can begin!  I'm going to be growing it this year interplanted with Costata Romanesco zucchini as well as by itself.
 
Ryan M Miller
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I need to warn you though. Some wild squash can be toxic and very bitter. The seeds can still be eaten though if properly soaked and processed.
 
Greg Martin
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My assumption is that the toxic compounds are bitter and breeding out bitter taste will be sufficient safety.  But I will double check on that before eating anything.  Thank you Ryan!
 
Greg Martin
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Ryan, you don't by any chance have a picture of what they look like cut open, do you?
 
Ryan M Miller
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Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the inside of the squash flesh I collected. Aaron Thatcher on Youtube does have pictures of the inside of one of the wild squashes he collected on Facebook. I'm waiting for him to answer whether or not I can share his images here. The squash Aaron Thatcher found has a hard shell when fully ripe and 1/4-1/3 inch thick rind. They seem to be a semi-domesticated, feral, or escaped non-bitter ornamental gourd or small vining summer squash. When fully dry, the squash resemble small bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria).

The squash I found at the monastery near Tahlequah when I picked them had a thick 1/3-1/2 inch bitter rind. Although the plant was vining, they may have been an F2 cross with crookneck summer squash growing in the garden nearby since they were large and yellow. There was no air space between the seeds and the rind. I'm assuming if I had picked them later, they would be eighteen inches to two feet long and have had a hard shell that must be pierced with a large carving knife or cleaver.
 
Greg Martin
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I really like the idea of creating "wild" zucchinis that climb trees and spread by self seeding.  Then people who complain about zucchinis will really have something to complain about!!!  :)

It will be interesting to see if the Ozark wild squash will be able to self seed here in Maine for me and to see how many generations it will take to get the best traits from both parents.  I'm going to try and maintain a decent sized gene pool from both parents.  I'll have to do a bit of reading to decide on how many plants of each to start with and collect seeds from.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Maybe 12 of each?  I'm going to buy the  Costata Romanesco zucchini seeds from several suppliers for the interplanting.
 
Ryan M Miller
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Accordung to the BONAP plant atlas, wild or escaped populations of Cucurbita pepo have been reported as far north as Coos county in New Hampshire in the US. Here is the link to the current map as of 2014:
http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Cucurbita%20melopepo.png
Cucurbita pepo usually only needs 90-110 days to yield mature fruit. That should be well withing a 120 day frost-free growing season should you happen to be in Northern Maine. I've read somewhere that wild squash used to be dispersed by extinct megafauna, like mastodons and ground sloths, before the animals went extict. In the Ozarks, wild squash spreads nowadays by floating down river during flood season and washing up on a new dry creek bed.
 
Ryan M Miller
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Another plant to consider interplanting with wild ozark squash would be yellow crookneck squash. I remember reading somewhere that it might be the closest related domesticated edible cultivar of Cucurbita pepo to wild Ozark squash. The only problem is that the fully mature fruits are too tough to use as food other than the toasted seeds.

I plan on trying to cross Aaron Thatcher's strain of wild squash from east Tennessee with crookneck squash to get a vining Summer Squash with larger fruits. Below are some images of Aaron Thatchers wild squash. His squash might have been domesticated at some point because the mature fruits are not bitter:
816A09D9-E065-4CED-982C-21A0598498E0.jpeg
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Mature fruits
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Original wild fruits
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Inside flesh and seeds
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Young fruits ready to harvest
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Fully dry squash
DAF54A0A-5D85-4ED2-8656-423C796E18FE.jpeg
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Notice the long stem
 
Greg Martin
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Thank you for all the great pics Ryan.  I'll do my best to try and track down the Coos county squash.  I live very close to there.
 
Ryan M Miller
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I you really want to go hunting for wild squash in Coos County, New Hampshire, according to the New England Plant Atlas, specimens of Cucurbita pepo were collected in the southern part of Coos county. It looks like the closest town to the fuzzy dot on the map is Gorham. There are several rivers near the town. I wouldn't be surprised if the squash plants were found growing by one of the rivers. I've never been to the area so I don't know exactly where to find them or if they're even still there. Here is the link to the website with the map:
http://neatlas.org/c.html#CUCURBITA
 
Greg Martin
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Thank you very much with your help on this.  I'm doing a bit more digging hoping to find some more specifics on the data that created the dots in NH and VT.  If there's still feral self-seeding population up there I'd really like to find it this fall and respectfully collect some seeds for grow out evaluations.  Fingers crossed.  Worst case it's a good excuse to spend a little time there at a nice time of the year :)
 
Ryan M Miller
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I was hoping someone else had some experience with wild squash from the Ozark region. I've seen at leat two  threads about buffalo gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima), but none on wild Ozark squash yet. It looks like one forum user from Arkansas, Judith Browning, commented about wild Ozark squash on one of the threads on buffalo gourds though. I sent her a purple mooseage just now.
 
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Ryan M Miller wrote:I was hoping someone else had some experience with wild squash from the Ozark region. I've seen at leat two  threads about buffalo gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima), but none on wild Ozark squash yet. It looks like one forum user from Arkansas, Judith Browning, commented about wild Ozark squash on one of the threads on buffalo gourds though. I sent her a purple mooseage just now.



Hi Ryan, I had to find the thread you mention to see what I said  I don't remember seeing anything like the wild squash in the images in your thread here.  What we have locally that I've run across anyway is definitely buffalo gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima) as in Tyler's thread Buffalo Gourd Here's what I said there....


We have something similar that we called egg gourds and picked when hard (and white) . I don't know genus and species and am not sure if we didn't make up the name. They were about 2 inches across, larger than a large egg. The kids would always gather them along the creek and bring them home to draw and paint on. Maybe we were missing out on a food source.



I haven't run across them in years...our old place had vines popping up in the front yard and we decorated the 'eggs' at a party once.  The young ones got into throwing and stomping them so I imagine they are everywhere now.

I wonder if the 'Ozark wild squash' is a Missouri Ozark native?

I'll ask around locally.
 
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