"Volunteer" squash plant that rewarded us with poison squashes.
Well, we had an interesting experience with squash this past weekend…. We got poisoned! Here is our story….. I usually rototill up the garden at the end of the year and invariably there are a few extra dried-up, overgrown squashes that get mashed into the soil. This spring a “volunteer” squash plant appeared presumably from these left over squash seeds. Even though this squash plant came up in the middle of a row (very inconvenient for weeding), I thought it would be fun to let it grow and see what it produced.
This volunteer plant started putting out copious amounts of light green squash in the shape of a straight-neck summer squash (the variety I planted back in 2013).
Poison light green squashes
All seemed well.. so far. This weekend, we picked a ton of squash and included one of these seemingly innocuous little green squash as well. The squash was sectioned and boiled all together in a medley along with some onions. It looked delicious. But the first bite soon gave a different impression. This squash side dish was extremely bitter.. to the point of being completely inedible. A few folks choked down a bite or two… and they were rewarded with stomach pains and explosive diarrhea later in the evening! Yours truly spit out the squash immediately and was spared any gastrointestinal distress…. I think I lucked out and bit into a “green squash” where the intense bitter flavor made it absolutely impossible to eat. Perhaps the others got a bite of a normal squash with only the juices of the poison squash mixed in. This made the taste somewhat more palatable.. and thus edible (but barely).
A bit of internet research pointed me to the fact that hybridized squash will sometime revert to a more
“wild type” and produce copious quantities of a bitter compound called “cucurbitacin E.” I also read that some “normal” squashes will produce this if water stressed. Curcubitacin E is bitter, and poisonous with the symptoms of ingesting being… stomach cramps and diarrhea. I am convinced this is what happened! So to all those with a garden out there… let this be a warning! Do not eat squash from “volunteer” plants and be very careful if you save seeds from curcurbits… unless of course you enjoy spending all evening on the toilet.