Tag Archives: Poison Squash

Poison “Volunteer” Squash: Be Warned!


"Volunteer" squash plant that rewarded us with poison squashes.
“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
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.