Benincasa (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Benincasa (Sturtevant, 1919)

Benincasa cerifera Savi.


Asia and African tropics. This annual plant is cultivated in India for its very large, handsome, egg-shaped gourd. The gourd is covered with a pale greenish-white, waxen bloom. It is consumed by the natives in an unripe state in their curries. This gourd is cultivated throughout Asia and its islands and in France as a vegetable. It is described as delicate, quite like the cucumber and preferred by many. The bloom of the fruit forms peetha wax and occurs in sufficient quantity to be collected and made into candles. This cucurbit has been lately introduced into European gardens. According to Bret-schneider, it can be identified in a Chinese book of the fifth century and is mentioned as cultivated in Chinese writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1503- 08, Ludovico di Varthema describes this gourd in India under the name como-langa. In 1859, Naudin says it is much esteemed in southern Asia, particularly in China, and that the size of its fruit, its excellent keeping qualities, the excellence of its flesh and the ease of its culture should long since have brought it into garden culture. He had seen two varieties: one, the cylindrical, ten to sixteen inches long and one specimen twenty-four inches long by eight to ten inches in diameter, from Algiers; the other, an ovoid fruit, shorter, yet large, from China. The long variety was grown at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in 1884 from seed from France. The fruit is oblong-cylindrical, resembling very closely a watermelon when, unripe but when ripe covered with a heavy glaucous bloom.

This plant is recorded in herbariums as from the Philippine Islands, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji Islands, Tahiti, New Holland and southern China and as cultivated in Japan and in China.

This species is the Cumbulam of Rheede Hort. Mal., 8, p. 5, t. 3; the Camolenga of Rumphius Amb. 5, 395, t. 143; the Cucurbita Pepo of Loureiro Cochinch. 593.