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Gourds resemble the cucumber in nature, at least in their manner of growing; they manifest an equal aversion to the winter, too, while they require constant watering and manure. Both cucumbers and gourds are sown in holes a foot and a half1 deep, between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice, at the time of the Parilia2 more particularly. Some persons, however, think it better to sow gourds after the calends of March,3 and cucumbers after the nones,4 and at the time of the Quinquatria.5 The cucumber and the gourd climb upwards in a precisely similar manner, their shoots creeping along the rough surface of the walls, even to the very roof, so great is their fondness for elevated spots. They have not sufficient strength, however, to support themselves without the aid of stays. Shooting upwards with the greatest rapidity, they soon cover with their light shade the arched roofs of the houses and the trellises on which they are trained. From this circum- stance it is that we find the gourd classified into two primary kinds, the roof-gourd,6 and the common gourd, which creeps upon the ground. In the first kind, from a stalk of remarkable thinness is suspended a fruit of considerable weight and volume, and quite immoveable by the action of the wind. The gourd, too, as well as the cucumber, admits of being lengthened to any extent, by the aid of osier tubes more particularly. Just after the blossom has fallen off, the plant is introduced into these tubes, and as it grows it can be made to assume any form that may be wished, that of a serpent coiled up being the one that is mostly preferred; if left at liberty to grow as it hangs, it has been known before now to attain to no less than7 nine feet in length.

The cucumber flowers gradually, blossom succeeding blossom; and it adapts itself perfectly well to a dry soil. It is covered with a white down, which increases in quantity as the plant gains in size.

The gourd admits of being applied to more numerous uses than the cucumber even: the stem is used as an article of food8 when young, but at a later period it changes its nature, and its qualities become totally different: of late, gourds have come to be used in baths for jugs and pitchers, but for this long time past they have been employed as casks9 for keeping wine. The rind is tender while the fruit is green, but still it is always scraped off when the gourd is used for food. It admits of being eaten several ways, and forms a light and wholesome aliment, and this although it is one of those fruits that are difficult of digestion by the human stomach, and are apt to swell out those who eat of them. The seeds which lie nearest to the neck of the gourd produce fruit of remarkable10 length, and so do those which lie at the lower extremities, though not at all comparable with the others. Those, on the other hand, which lie in the middle, produce gourds of a round shape, and those on the sides fruit that are thick and short. The seeds are dried by being placed in the shade, and when wanted for sowing, are steeped in water first. The longer and thinner the gourd is, the more agreeable it is to the palate, and hence it is that those which have been left to grow hanging are reckoned the most wholesome: these, too, have fewer seeds than the others, the hardness of which is apt to render the fruit less agreeable for eating.

Those which are intended for keeping seed, are usually not cut before the winter sets in; they are then dried in the smoke, and are extensively employed for preserving11 seeds, and for making other articles for domestic use. There has been a method discovered, also, of preserving the gourd for table, and the cucumber as well, till nearly the time when the next year's crop is ripe; this is done by putting them in brine. We are assured, too, that if put in a hole dug in a place well shaded from the sun, with a layer of sand beneath, and dry hay and earth on the top of them, they may be kept green for a very long time. We also find wild12 cucumbers and gourds; and, indeed, the same is the case with pretty nearly all the garden plants. These wild varieties, however, are only possessed of certain medicinal properties, and for this reason we shall defer any further mention of them till we come to the Books appropriated to that subject.

1 This depth would probably have the effect of retarding, or else utterly impeding, the growth of the plant.

2 See c. 44 of this Book. The Parilia was a festival celebrated on the nineteenth of April, the anniversary of the foundation of Rome.

3 First of March.

4 Seventh of March.

5 See B. xviii. c. 56.

6 The "camerarium," and the "plebeium." The former, Fée thinks, is the Cucurbita longior of Dodonæus and J. Bauhin, the long gourd, and other varieties probably of the calabash gourd, the Cucurbita leucantha of Duchesne. The latter is probably the Cucurbita pepo and its varieties. Fée thinks that the name "cucurbita," as employed by Pliny, extends not only to the gourd, but the citrul or small pumpkin as well.

7 As Fée says, he must be speaking of the fruit here, and not the plant, which attains a far greater length than nine feet.

8 The young shoots of the gourd, Fée says, would afford an insipid food, with but little nutriment.

9 The varieties thus employed, Fée says, must have been the Cucurbita lagenaria of Linnæus, and the Cucurbita latior of Dodonæus.

10 This is not the fact. The seed produces fruit similar to that from which it was taken, and no more.

11 The trumpet gourd, the Cucurbita longior of Dodonæus, is still employed, Fée says, by gardeners for this purpose.

12 See B. xx. c. 2.

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