Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Salinas, California » Crop Improvement and Protection Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #324604

Title: Cultivation and uses of cucurbits

item McCreight, James - Jim

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/8/2016
Publication Date: 12/1/2016
Citation: McCreight, J.D. 2016. Cultivation and uses of cucurbits. In: Grumet, R., Katzir, N., Garcia-Mas, J., editors. Genetics and Genomics of the Cucurbitaceae. New York, NY: Springer. p. 1–12.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Cultivated cucurbits have spread through trade and exploration from their respective Old and New World centers of origin to the six arable continents and are important in local, regional and world trade. Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), melon (Cucumis melo L.), pumpkin, squash and gourd (Cucurbita spp.), and watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] comprise the major cucurbits. Bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.), bottle gourd [Lagenaria siceraria (Molina.) Standley], wax gourd [Benincasa hispida (Tunb.)], sponge and ridge gourd (Luffa ssp.), and snake gourd (Trichosanthes ssp.) are minor cucurbits from a global perspective that are of import to small shareholder farmers, mostly in Asia. Global production of the major cucurbits increased from 1992 through 2013 in terms of area harvested and yield per hectare, and consequently total production. Production per capita, and presumably consumption, increased in parallel with gains in total production. Cucurbits can play an important role dietary health, as they are low in nutritional value, compared with other vegetables and many popular processed foods, but can be significant sources of nutrients such as vitamin A and C, iron and calcium. Cucurbits may be harvested from monsoon-fed sand dunes of the Thar Desert area of Rajasthan, India with no other inputs, or they may be grown with modest (e.g., Turkmenistan), or precise (e.g., lower desert areas of the southwest US) control of inputs. They may be cultivated under protection with some control of conditions under plastic (e.g., America, Spain) or precise control under glass (e.g., The Netherlands). Cucurbits are prized for their delicious fruits, which may or may not be sweet, bitter or aromatic, be highly perishable or storable for months with little change in quality. The seed provide high quality vegetable oil and protein. Gourd shells may be used for storage or as musical instruments. Some cucurbits, such as bitter gourd, have medicinal properties. The cultivated cucurbits have been improved greatly by plant breeders using conventional plant breeding techniques for more than 100 years; rapidly advancing molecular technologies are being applied to cucurbits to ensure sustainable production, improve fruit quality and shelf life, and develop novel fruit types.