(257) Evaluation and Selection of Squash Types and Cultivars for Production of Edible Squash Blossoms

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  • 1 1University of Florida, IFAS, West Palm Beach, FL, 33415
  • | 2 2University of Florida, IFAS, Belle Glade, FL, 33430
  • | 3 3University of Florida, IFAS, Immokalee, FL, 34142
  • | 4 4Local Grower, Farming Systems Research, Inc., Boynton Beach, FL, 33474

Recently, an increasing number of restaurants in Palm Beach County, Florida, have been requesting squash (Cucurbita pepo) flowers from local vegetable growers. Typically, current field-grown squash cultivars produce a higher ratio of female to male flowers, with the emphasis on fruit production. However, a market for squash blossoms indicates a need for cultivars that produce higher numbers of consistently developing male flowers throughout the growing season. In order to evaluate male squash blossom production, 10 squash cultivars, including yellow-summer, zucchini, round, and scallop-types, and one compact-type pumpkin, were field-grown during the 2005–06 growing season. The average number of male flowers per plant by week was recorded for 7 weeks, starting when the first male flowers were identified within the entire trial. In addition to blossom counts, flower traits, such as bell height, depth, volume, and weight were also recorded. Preliminary results from the 2005 season indicate that the commercial yellow-summer squash cultivars, Mulitpik and Early Prolific Straightneck, and the zucchini cultivars, Jaguar and Raven, produced fewer male flowers on a week-by-week and total basis. The cultivar, White Bush Scallop, produced significantly more male flowers then any other entry, with an average of 9.8 male flowers per plant per week. Little or no difference was seen in bell height and depth among the 11 cultivars; however, two cultivars, Costa Romanesque and Hybrid Pam (compact pumpkin type) had significantly greater bell volumes and weights, indicating a much larger blossom size.