Squash that tastes like cantaloupe? Welcome to the tropics

November 29, 2014

We’ve been enjoying a harvest of one of our favorite novelty squashes of the tropics. Known as musk cucumber in English, its common name here is  Cohombro (Sicana odorifera). This is one of the most unusual plants in the tropics. Its large, 12- to 14-inch long, maroon-colored, sausage-shaped fruit is a squash with the taste of cantaloupe. That’s right, cantaloupe!

This plant is believed to be native to Brazil, but spread throughout tropical pre-Columbian America. It was first mentioned by European writers in 1658 as cultivated and popular in Peru. Venezuelans and Brazilians are partial to the vine as an ornamental, but in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico it is grown for the usefulness of the fruit.

We found this unique, fruity squash more than 20 years ago in our local market and have grown it for many years.  We find it is much easier to grow than organic cantaloupe here in the tropics, and it provides the same flavorful treat.

Cohombro seems to be closely related to the luffa squash. Its leaves and flowers are very similar. Both can be planted, like most squashes, using a composted, fertile circle or “hill” about two feet in diameter for planting one or two seeds. Campesinos plant this squash near a tree or fence so it can climb while it’s growing. The cohombro grows vigorously in the first two months, then begins to flower and set its fruit. The young, tender green squash can be selectively chosen for eating much like zucchini squash. Later, the fruits begin to fill out and turn a dark maroon color, which is quite the sight. It’s not unusual for one cohombro squash plant to produce a dozen or more “sausages.” This novelty squash certainly wins comments from neighbors and friends.

We’ve found it better to let the squashes mature as much as possible on the vine before picking; this ensures that the squashes will have the maximum sweetness and flavor. Sometimes the squash is slow to ripen, taking several weeks before it begins to give off a delightful fragrance of cantaloupe throughout the home. That’s why it also called casabanana.

Cohombro is a very hardy plant with few insect problems or plant diseases, and it grows in a wide range of bioregions here in Costa Rica. Fertilization seems to be the most important aspect of growing good fruit.  We always try to apply about one-half wheelbarrow of our best, aged compost to each “hill” for planting cohombro seeds. Applications of limestone and a little bit of ashes also helps to make the cohombro grow vigorously. Foliar spraying the leaves with seaweed extract or compost tea also insures good growth and production.

For those gardeners interested in growing cohombro, we’ll be offering cohombro seeds in our upcoming newsletter.

For more information on tropical gardening – naturally – visit http://thenewdawncenter.info/blog.html or contact Ed at thenewdawncenter@yahoo.com. 

140724EdBernhardtcolumnfooter

You may be interested

VIDEO: A closer look at ‘Battlefiel before its Costa Rican premiere
Events
420 views
Events
420 views

VIDEO: A closer look at ‘Battlefiel before its Costa Rican premiere

Katherine Stanley - October 18, 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wujGfRevDOE&feature=youtu.be "Battlefield," from acclaimed director Peter Brook, premieres tonight at San José's National Theater. Read our full story here.

Costa Rica, Lima Group call for urgent audit of Venezuelan elections
Latin America
569 views
Latin America
569 views

Costa Rica, Lima Group call for urgent audit of Venezuelan elections

The Tico Times - October 18, 2017

The 12 countries that make up the recently formed Lima Group demanded on Tuesday that an urgent “independent audit” of…

10 tips for selling a property without a real estate agent
Real Estate
651 views
Real Estate
651 views

10 tips for selling a property without a real estate agent

The Tico Times - October 18, 2017

Is selling a property without a real estate agent a good option in Costa Rica? Some property owners simply don’t…