Calabaza is a popular squash in many parts of the Americas. It is also known as auyama (Dominican Republic and Venezuela), ayote (parts of Central America) zapallo (parts of South America) and West Indian pumpkin in parts of the English-speaking Caribbean. In Brazil, there are several squashes that are also C. moschata that have similar growth habits along with similar flesh color. They are called abóbora.
The fruit of calabaza vary in size, shape and color due to outcrossing and strain selection (see top photo). Tropical lines of calabaza can vine extensively, up to 50 feet long, and also produce very large fruit in excess of 50 pounds. These tropical lines are not well suited for production in the Northeast due to the vining nature, requiring abundant space, and the fact that the fruit may not mature before frost. The majority of growers in Latin America save seed from harvest of these open-pollinated lines for the next planting.
Calabaza is added to sauces as a thickener and an ingredient in stews and soups. It can also be used as a pie filling or served as a main dish. The texture and flavor is similar to the Butternut squash. It is a good source of vitamins such as beta carotene, riboflavin and thiamine.
Grow calabaza using the same production practices for winter squash or pumpkin. Due to its relatively long days-to-harvest, it is recommended to use transplants in New England.
For information on production and management of calabaza, refer to the The New England Vegetable Management Guide and click on "pumpkin and squash".
UMass Extension and commercial growers in Massachusetts trialed two varieties of calabaza developed by a breeding program based at the University of Florida in the late 1990’s, “La Estrella” and “El Dorado”. These varieties grow much better in our climate than the tropical OP lines.
Trials in Connecticut for two of these varieties yielded 26 tons/acre of “La Estrella” and 35 tons/acre of “El Dorado.”
Rupp Seed carries "La Estrella."
Calabaza is a good source of beta carotine, riboflavin and thiamine.