Italian Gardeners' Association Cucuzza Squash Drill Team, Los Gatos, 2007. Photo: Chris Wiley, Los Gatos Observer
Always read the label and head for the computer when you plant something new.
The label, all those weeks ago, said Italian Squash. I read that part. How weird could that be? Squash is squash. The plants were spindly. Now the leaves are twice the size of my outstretched palm. Tonight I decided to google the plant, as the leaves smell very funny. Like burned hair. In stark contrast to the sweet-smelling and gorgeous white, night-blooming flowers held aloft on long, soft stems.
Squash flower, 6.11pm
And the leaves themselves are highly tactile - I decided that they feel like a Labrador's ears. If a Labrador had green ears. Very soft and smooth and furry. And calming when stroked. For you and the Labrador.
Turns out these mothers grow to feet long! And should be supported on a helluva trellis. They are gourds.
And the leaves are edible. The small ones. Chopped into tomato 'gravy.' Which brings me to their better-known name in some circles: gagootz. Or gogoots. That's Italian-American to you. Also slang for a useless person. You big googoots!
Squash flower, 7.06pm
There seems to be a bit of confusion on the web about its botanical name, and the closest I can get is Benincasa hispada (already an incredibly interesting start: Benin! Casa? Hispada?) - yet it's native to India. Feel free to jump in here at any point...Botanists*? Latin scholars? Food historians?
Squash flower, 7.07pm
Question: Who is pollinating these blooms at night? What is going on up there in the dark?
Squash tendrils through the skylight, as we speak...
* 8-21-10 Update: new information just in, shall write follow up post.