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Useful Tropical Plants

Cucurbita ficifolia

Bouché.

Cucurbitaceae

+ Synonyms

Cucurbita melanosperma A.Braun. ex Gasparr.

Common Name: Malabar Gourd

Cucurbita ficifolia
The cultivar 'Courge de Siam'
Photograph by: Not known
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General Information

Malabar gourd is a short-lived, perennial, climbing plant producing vigorous annual stems from a perennial rootstock. The stems often sprawl across the ground, but can support themselves by means of tendrils. A very vigorous plant, it can produce shoots 25 metres long in 1 year from seed[
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
].
The plant is sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit in warmer areas of the world[
50
Title
Flora Europaea
Publication
 
Author
?
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1964
ISBN
-
Description
An immense work in 6 volumes (including the index). The standard reference flora for Europe, it is very terse though and with very little extra information. Not for the casual reader.
,
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
].

Known Hazards

The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo[
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
].

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

N. South America - Chile to Mexico.

Habitat

Not known in the wild.

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitPerennial Climber
Height2.00 m
Growth RateFast
PollinatorsInsects
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusCultivated

Cultivation Details

The plant can be cultivated from the tropics to warmer areas of the temperate zone, so long as there is a long enough growing season. In the tropics it can be grown at elevations from 1,000 - 2,800 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 21°c, but can tolerate 6 - 35°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,200mm, but tolerates 300 - 1,700mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Requires a rich, well-drained moisture retentive soil and a very warm, sunny and sheltered position[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Tolerates poor, wet and badly drained soils according to another report[
160
Title
Wonder Crops. 1987.
Publication
 
Author
Natural Food Institute,
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.4 - 7.5, tolerating 5.3 - 8.3[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
In N. America it takes 3 months from seed to first harvest of the fruit and 6 months to obtain mature fruit[
160
Title
Wonder Crops. 1987.
Publication
 
Author
Natural Food Institute,
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
]. The average fruit size is 9 kilos and this contains 2 cups of seed[
160
Title
Wonder Crops. 1987.
Publication
 
Author
Natural Food Institute,
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
].
A yield of up to 50 tonnes/ha of mature fruit can be realized under optimal conditions[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Plants are day-length sensitive, flowering only when there are 13 hours or less daylight[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
,
300
Title
Vegetables in the Tropics
Publication
 
Author
Tindall. H. D.
Publisher
MacMillan, Oxford.
Year
1983
ISBN
0-333-24268-8
Description
An excellent, in-depth look at the main vegetable crops that can be grown in the Tropics, plus many less well-known plants.
].
This species does not hybridize naturally with other members of the genus though crosses have been made under controlled conditions[
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
,
135
Title
The Plantsman. Vol.8. 1986 - 1987.
Publication
 
Author
?
Publisher
Royal Horticultural Society
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants including some Cucurbitaceae.
].

Edible Uses

Fruit - cooked[
22
Title
Alternative Foods.
Publication
 
Author
Sholto-Douglas. J.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Not very comprehensive, it seems more or less like a copy of earlier writings with little added.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
,
97
Title
The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru.
Publication
 
Author
Towle. M. A.
Publisher
Aldine Publishing Co. Chicago.
Year
1961
ISBN
 
Description
A very interesting book covering quite a lot of information on plant uses in S. America although many of the plants are not suitable for temperate areas.
]. Best used when young, at that stage it can be used like a cucumber. The mature fruits are sometimes boiled and eaten[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
]. A confection is made from the flesh by boiling it with crude sugar[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. So long as it is kept dry, the mature fruit can be stored for 2 years or more and becomes sweeter with storage[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. The globular to cylindrical fruit can be 15 - 50cm long[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Seed - raw[
57
Title
Plants for Man.
Publication
 
Author
Schery. R. W.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
,
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
,
160
Title
Wonder Crops. 1987.
Publication
 
Author
Natural Food Institute,
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fascinating reading, this is an annual publication. Some reports do seem somewhat exaggerated though.
]. Rich in oil with a nutty flavour but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The seed is delicious when roasted and eaten like peanuts[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
,
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

An edible oil is obtained from the seed. It is rich in oleic acid[
196
Title
Lost Crops of the Incas
Publication
 
Author
Popenoe. H. et al
Publisher
National Academy Press
Year
1990
ISBN
0-309-04264-X
Description
An excellent book. Very readable, with lots of information and good pictures of some lesser known food plants of S. America.
].

Young leaves and vine tips - cooked and eaten as a green vegetable[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Medicinal

The seeds are vermifuge[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
,
88
Title
The Garden. Volume 112.
Publication
 
Author
RHS.
Publisher
Royal Horticultural Society
Year
1987
ISBN
-
Description
Snippets of information from the magazine of the RHS. In particular, there are articles on plants that are resistant to honey fungus, oriental vegetables, Cimicifuga spp, Passiflora species and Cucurbits.
]. The complete seed, together with the husk, is used. This is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
]. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Like several other members of this plant family, the consumption of fig-leaf gourd by diabetic patients has a hypoglycaemic effect, making it an appropriate medicine against diabetes mellitus[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The plant is sometimes used as a rootstock for other Cucurbita species[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Other Uses

The shell of the mature fruit is very hard and it can be used as a container[
86
Title
Gourds.
Publication
 
Author
Organ. J.
Publisher
Faber
Year
1963
ISBN
-
Description
Deals with squashes and their relatives. Interesting and readable, it gives cultivation techniques and some details of plant uses.
].

Propagation

Seed - can be sown in situ or in containers[
300
Title
Vegetables in the Tropics
Publication
 
Author
Tindall. H. D.
Publisher
MacMillan, Oxford.
Year
1983
ISBN
0-333-24268-8
Description
An excellent, in-depth look at the main vegetable crops that can be grown in the Tropics, plus many less well-known plants.
]. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. When starting in containers, sow 2 or 3 seeds per pot and thin out to the best plant. Grow them on fast and plant out when they are about 10cm tall[
300
Title
Vegetables in the Tropics
Publication
 
Author
Tindall. H. D.
Publisher
MacMillan, Oxford.
Year
1983
ISBN
0-333-24268-8
Description
An excellent, in-depth look at the main vegetable crops that can be grown in the Tropics, plus many less well-known plants.
].

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