Praecitrullus fistulosus (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Praecitrullus fistulosus (Stocks) Pangalo

Protologue: Bot. Zhurn. SSSR 29: 203 (1944).
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 24


Citrullus fistulosus Stocks (1851), Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai var. fistulosus (Stocks) Chakrav. (1982).

Vernacular names

Tinda, squash melon, round melon (En). Tinda (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Praecitrullus fistulosus is cultivated as a vegetable in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The origin is probably north-western India, where wild types may still be found in the wild. In Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbay and Rajasthan it is quite important as a cultivated market vegetable. The Hindi name ‘tinda’ is commonly used in other parts of the world. In Africa it is cultivated locally, mainly in East Africa, as a vegetable for the Asian population. In Ghana and Kenya it is grown as an export commodity for the United Kingdom market. It is also grown on a small scale in the United States.


The entire immature fruit is used as a cooked vegetable. In India the fruits are also pickled and candied. The seeds are roasted and consumed in the same way as watermelon or egusi seeds. In India tinda is used as fodder and in medicine.

Production and international trade

In Africa, tinda is usually grown in small plots for the market and only rarely for home consumption. The demand is primarily from people of Indian origin. There is some limited export, mainly from Kenya and more recently also from Ghana, to the United Kingdom. No statistical information is available on areas under production, market volumes and value. The information available indicates that the production of tinda in Africa is very limited, probably less than 50 ha per year.


The composition of tinda fruits per 100 g edible portion is: water 93.5 g, energy 89 kJ (21 kcal), protein 1.4 g, fat 0.2 g, carbohydrate 3.6 g, fibre 1.6 g, Ca 25 mg, Fe 0.9 mg, P 24 mg, carotene 13 μg, thiamin 0.04 mg, riboflavin 0.08 mg, niacin 0.3 mg, ascorbic acid 18 mg (Holland, B., Unwin, I.D. & Buss, D.H., 1991).

Adulterations and substitutes

In dishes tinda fruits can be replaced by bottle gourd, squash or similar cooked cucurbit fruits.


Monoecious, annual, climbing or trailing herb, with robust, villous hairy stem; tendrils 2–4(–5)-fid, slender. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole c. 6 cm long, hirsute; lamina ovate in outline, c. 15 cm long, shallowly pinnatifid, cordate at base, margin finely dentate, hispid hairy. Flowers usually solitary in leaf axils, comparatively small, c. 3 cm in diameter, regular, 5-merous, with short pedicel; calyx campanulate; petals connate, yellow, hairy; male flowers with 3 stamens; female flowers with inferior, globose, hairy ovary, stigmas 3. Fruit a globose or depressed-globose berry 6–12 cm in diameter, hispid when immature, glabrous when mature, pale to dark green outside, creamy white to pale green inside, many-seeded. Seeds ovate-oblong in outline, compressed, c. 8 mm long, with ridged margin, smooth, black.

Other botanical information

Praecitrullus comprises a single species, which was formerly classified in Citrullus. However, it differs from species of this genus in its basic chromosome number and pollen morphology, and by the absence of urease in the seed. The fruit rind of tinda is thinner and softer than the usually solid and thick rind of watermelon and cooking melon. Crosses between Citrullus and Praecitrullus have not been successful. Molecular data confirm the separate position of Praecitrullus fistulosus and indicate a close relationship with Benincasa hispida (Thunb. ex Murray) Cogn.

Growth and development

Emergence of the seedling takes 5–7 days from sowing. Germination is epigeal with full opening of the cotyledons after 10 days. The development is similar to that of watermelon, but the main branches of tinda are shorter, so that the plants are smaller. Male flowers open about one week before the female ones. Pollination is predominantly by bees. The fruits are ready to harvest in 13–15 weeks from sowing, depending on temperature and growing conditions.


Tinda is mainly cultivated in the lowlands, from sea-level up to approximately 1000 m altitude. It likes warm, sunny conditions of 25–30°C at daytime and 18°C or more during the night, and performs less well in cooler and humid areas. In India it is either grown in the dry season (February to end of April) or in the rainy season (mid-June to end of July). Tinda prefers light or sandy soils where its roots can penetrate easily. Moderately fertile to fertile soil is required for early closure of the vegetative cover.

Propagation and planting

Seeds are sown directly on ridges or on flat land after the soil has been prepared either manually or mechanically by ploughing, harrowing or ridging. Tinda is primarily grown as a sole crop. Three or four seeds are sown per hill at a depth of 2–3 cm, spaced at approximately 90 cm × 150 cm. The seedlings are thinned to one or two per hill at 3–4 weeks after sowing when they have 2–4 true leaves. This leaves a plant population of about 10,000 plants per ha.


In case of prolonged drought, irrigation is required before ploughing. Fertilizer applications depend on the nutrient status of the soil. In general a fertilizer application at a rate of 50 kg N, 20 kg P and 20 kg K per ha is needed. Watering 2–3 times per week is recommended during the dry season. One or two weedings are required before the stems cover the soil, attained in 6–8 weeks after sowing. From this stage movement in the crop should be reduced to a minimum to avoid damaging the plants.

Diseases and pests

The range of diseases that can be seen in tinda corresponds closely with that of watermelon. The most serious fungal diseases are downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) and to a lesser extent powdery mildew (Erysiphe cichoracearum and Sphaerotheca fuliginea), which can be controlled by spraying a carbamate fungicide. Choanephora cucurbitarum causes wet rot of the fruit and another major disease of the fruit is anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. These diseases may be controlled chemically, e.g. by a weekly spraying with fungicides such as benomyl for 3–4 weeks. There are also several virus diseases that can cause severe fruit abortion, defoliation and fruit distortion. These viruses are usually transmitted by aphids (Aphis spp.), thrips and white flies (Bemisia tabaci). Virus infections can be reduced by spraying appropriate insecticides and by early planting before the heavy rains. The most serious pests are melon fruit fly (Dacus spp.) and leaf beetles (Epilachna chrysomelina), which can be controlled with insecticides.


Tinda is harvested at the nearly mature green stage when the fruit has a diameter of 10–12 cm and the seed is still soft. Harvesting can take place about two weeks from fruit set, depending on prevailing moisture and temperature conditions. The fruit stalk is cut short to avoid damage to neighbouring fruits.


Up to 4 fruits of about 500 g each can be harvested per plant. In India, an average yield of 10 t/ha is reported.

Handling after harvest

Tinda fruits are usually packed in cardboard boxes to protect their skin, which is more delicate and softer than those of mature watermelon fruits.

Genetic resources

A collection of 31 accessions is maintained at the Southern Regional Plant Introduction Station, Griffin, GA, United States.


Improved varieties have been developed by the Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore, India and by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India. Breeding work focuses on earliness, tenderness of the fruit, fruit size and yield. ‘Arka’ and ‘Dilpas’ are cultivars introduced from India to Kenya. In India cultivars with dark green fruits and with pale green fruits are recognized, the latter being preferred.


Tinda is at present of minor importance in Africa, but growing may increase slightly for the city markets in East Africa and for export to the United Kingdom.

Major references

  • Chadha, M.L. & Tarsem Lal, 1993. Improvement of cucurbits. In: Chadha, K.L. & Kalloo, G. (Editors). Advances in Horticulture. Volume 5: Vegetable crops. Malhotra Publishing House, New Delhi, India. pp. 137–179.
  • Choudhury, B., 1977. Vegetables. India, the land and the people. 5th revised edition. National Book Trust, New Delhi, India. 214 pp.
  • CSIR, 1950. The wealth of India. A dictionary of Indian raw materials and industrial products. Raw materials. Volume 2: C. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi, India. 427 pp.
  • Holland, B., Unwin, I.D. & Buss, D.H., 1991. Vegetables, herbs and spices. The fifth supplement to McCance & Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods. 4th Edition. Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 163 pp.
  • Whitaker, T.W. & Davis, G.N., 1962. Cucurbits - botany, cultivation and utilization. Leonard Hill, London, United Kingdom. 249 pp.

Other references

  • Hopkins, D.L. & Thompson, C.M., 2002. Evaluation of Citrullus sp. germ plasm for resistance to Acidovorax avenae subsp. citrulli. Plant Disease 86(1): 61–64.
  • Nazimuddin, S. & Shaharyar H. Naqvi, S., 1984. Cucurbitaceae. In: Nasir, E. & Ali, S.I. (Editors). Flora of Pakistan No 154. National Herbarium, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad and Department of Botany, University of Karachi, Pakistan. 56 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Stocks, J.E., 1851. An account of the dilpasand, a kind of vegetable marrow. Hooker's Journal of Botany 3: 74–77.


  • R.R. Schippers

De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Schippers, R.R., 2004. Praecitrullus fistulosus (Stocks) Pangalo. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>.

Accessed 4 March 2020.