Origin of the zucchini squash, Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo Zucchini group

H.S. Paris, T.A. Lust
Summer squash, the young fruits of Cucurbita pepo, are a common, high-value fruit vegetable. Among the summer squash, the zucchini (also known as courgette) is, on a worldwide basis, the most familiar. The word zucchini is derived from Italian and means, literally, small gourds (derived from zucca - gourd). Often, the word zucchini in English is misappropriated to the point of becoming synonymous with summer squash. However, the precise usage for zucchini is uniformly cylindrical summer squash fruits and, scientifically, is C. pepo subsp. pepo Zucchini Group. C. pepo originated in North America and, soon after the arrival of Europeans on that continent, seeds of various indigenous round-fruited landraces, C. pepo subsp. pepo Pumpkin Group, were brought to Europe, reaching Italy by no later than 1518. By the close of the 16th century, Italians had already selected for longfruitedness in C. pepo, as indicated by round and elongate young fruits of C. pepo being addressed as separate cookery items by that time. A painting of that era, as well as the early 17th-century herbal of Jean Bauhin (published in 1651) and late 18th-century illustrations by A.N. Duchesne, indicate that these early long-fruited Italian summer squash were among the founders of the C. pepo subsp. pepo Cocozelle Group, characterized by long, bulbous cylindrical fruits. The zucchini, another cylindrical but not bulbous summer squash, originated much later, in the mid-19th century near Milan. In a very short time, the zucchini became the most widely distributed summer squash. Indeed, the Zucchini Group today is probably more important, on a monetary basis, than perhaps all the other cultivar-groups and market types of the genus Cucurbita combined.
Paris, H.S. and Lust, T.A. (2020). Origin of the zucchini squash, Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo Zucchini group. Acta Hortic. 1294, 1-8
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1294.1
cocozelle, cucuzzi, Italian cookery, Italian horticulture, summer squash

Acta Horticulturae