Cucurbita ficifolia is a species of squash, grown for its edible seeds, fruit, and greens. It has many common names in English such as the fig-leaf gourd, Malabar gourd, black seed squash and cidra. Although it is closely related to other squashes in its genus, such as the pumpkin, it shows considerable biochemical difference from them and does not hybridize readily with them.
Common names in English
Common names in other languages
Abóbora-chila or abóbora gila (Portugal, Brazil)
Alcayota (Chile and the Cuyo region of Argentina)
Black seeded pumpkin (Japan), written as kurodane kabocha, 黒種南瓜 and フィシフォリア
Cabell d’Àngel (angel’s hair) (in Catalan)
Calabaza de cabello de ángel (angel’s hair pumpkin) (Spain)
Cayote (most of Argentina)
Chilacayote (Mexico, Panama), Chilacayotl (Mexico, Guatemala) or Tzilacayote (Mexico)
Courge à choucroute de cheveux d’ange (France)
Courge de Siam (France)
Lacayote (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru)
Mboga ya kimasai (Swahili)
Tenerifa (Madeira Island, Portugal)
shark fin melon (Asia), written as 鱼翅瓜 in Mandarin
Zucca del Siam or Zucca del Malabar (Italy)
The flowers, leaves and tender shoots are used in Mexico and other countries as greens. The most nutritional part of Cucurbita ficifolia is its fat- and protein-rich seeds, which can vary in color from white to black. They are used in Mexico to make palanquetas, a sweet similar to peanut brittle. The fruit has several uses as food. The immature fruit is eaten cooked, while the mature fruit is sweet and used to make confectionery and beverages, sometimes alcoholic. The fruit is low in beta-carotene, as can be seen from its white flesh, and is relatively low in vitamins and minerals, and moderately high in carbohydrates.
In Europe: In Spain this squash is used to make a jam known as “cabello de ángel” (angel’s hair), “cabell d’àngel” in Catalan, that is used to fill pies, sweets and confectionery. In Portugal, where the fruit is known as “chila” or “gila”, it is still used extensively in the production of traditional Portuguese sweets and confectionery; it was also used as a crop for non-human consumption in order to feed pigs.
In Latin America: In Chile and Argentina, jam is often made out of the fruit of “alcayota” or “cayote”. In Costa Rica, it is traditional to make empanadas stuffed with sugared “chiverre” filling at Easter time.
In Asia, the pulp strands are used to make soup, quite similar to shark fin soup, hence the name “shark’s fin melon”. The cultivation and this usage feature briefly in the film Grow Your Own. Across Asia, eating this melon is also said to help people with diabetes. Several scientific studies have confirmed its hypoglycemic effect. It is used effectively to treat diabetes due to its high D-Chiro-Inositol content.
The vine and fruit are used for fodder. Because of its ability to keep for a long time, the ripe fruit was taken on voyages on ships, and used for food for livestock on board.