A vegetable marrow is the British term for the fruit vegetable known as squash or marrow squash in the USA; as the squash contains seeds, it is actually a fruit rather than a vegetable. The vegetable marrow fruits are elongated oblong, oval or globular in shape, and can generally be about nine inches long to 18 inches (23 to 46 cm) long in size; some can grow even larger. Marrow vegetables have smooth dark green skin or green striped skin, which, as the fruit matures, turns a pale yellow color. The fruit flesh in white or cream in color, and the flavor may range from bland to nutty.
Marrow vegetables require a warm climate, a well-drained, rich soil, and some amount of shade for growing. The vegetable marrow seeds are usually planted in April, and the seedlings can be transferred to the prepared ground in May or June. The marrow creeper may be allowed to grow as a ground cover or may be trained up a frame or a wall.
Although grown the world over, these vegetables are actually indigenous to Central America and Mexico, and, along with beans and corn, were a staple crop of the Native Indians. The marrow squash belongs to the genus Cucurbita, which has four species, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo. These vegetable marrow species can be grown all year round and, depending on whether they are harvested in summer or in winter, are grouped as summer squashes and winter squashes.
Summer squashes include zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and pattypan squash, and these are harvested when the fruit is still immature and tender. These marrow vegetables may be eaten raw, may be seasoned in salads, or may be baked, fried, stuffed, pickled or cooked in a variety of other ways. Winter squashes, which include butternut squash, acorn squash and Hubbard squash, are allowed to mature before they are harvested. They need to be cooked before they can be eaten.
Apart from the vegetable marrow fruit, the seeds, flowers and the green parts of the marrow squash creeper can be eaten. The seeds, if tender, are eaten directly or they may be ground to a paste first. Mature seeds can be dried and ground to a flour, which may then be used to make bread. The green parts and the marrow squash flowers can be cooked as vegetable greens. Squashes are available throughout the year and can be purchased at vegetable markets, grocery stores and other fresh vegetable outlets.