Introducing the Cucuzza! I am betting you never heard of this squash unless you are from Southern Italy, know someone who is, or recently visited the “heel of the boot”. I never heard of or saw it either until I met my lovely wife about 15 years ago. Her Sicilian grandmother served me an amazing pasta with a magical pale green squash in it. I still remember asking her what this tasty squash was. Her reply came in the form of a lovely voice, thick with Sicilian dialect…”Ga-Goots-Za”. Say what? Ga-Goots-Za! At least that is what it sounded like to me when she said it. Other people say it like this, “Ka-Kooza” or “Ka-Koots-Za”.
I have also heard Cucuzza referred to as “Snake Squash”. Usually farmers or people from the South use this term. Once you see Cucuzza grow you will know why. They can get 3 feet long and actually look like snakes! Call it what you want, just be sure to grow some!
Cucuzza squash is a firm, pale green colored squash. The plant has small, delicate white flowers and is a very prolific grower. It does need to be trellised well and loosely tied to the trellis every foot or so. Once the weather heats up this baby will grow like mad. It is not uncommon to go away for a day or two and come back to 4 feet of new growth! No kidding!
I prefer to prune my squash vines well. We are a family of four and will get more than enough cucuzza from just one plant. We have 2 cucuzzas growing this season. They are planted 6 feet apart and will cover the entire length of a 25 foot fence if I let them. I won’t! Pruning also allows the plant to concentrate on making great squash and not just lots of leaves.
It is too late to grow cucuzza this season if you have not already started. It does not transplant well and needs to be planted by seed only when all danger of frost is gone. Seeds are large and should be planted about 1″ deep and kept moist until they sprout. Cucuzza likes moisture, but should never be kept soaking wet. Do not space the plants any closer than 3 feet apart. I keep mine even further apart. Finally, unless you want to feed a community, 2 plants are all you will need. Plant extras and thin them down by keeping the strongest plants.
Timing is everything when harvesting cucuzza. It is not uncommon to have a 6″ squash turn into a 2 foot squash in a couple of days. Unfortunately, the longer they get the harder they are to cook. Young, 8-10″ cucuzza are tender and have fewer seeds. The seeds are also much softer and will not ruin a dish. The longer cucuzza end up being really hard and come along with seeds that will need to be removed before cooking. So, harvest the majority of them young and leave one or two to grow to huge lengths to impress the neighbors.
I am not an expert on cooking cucuzza just yet. My wife’s Nonna cooks it so well that I do not even want to try. I also do not have the time to take the care she does in preparing. I do know most cucuzza needs to be peeled and much of it will need to be seeded. Here is a video I found on the internet with some basic, Southern Italian Cucuzza recipes and prep tips.
Have you ever grown Cucuzza???