Gem squash central – how to find them, how to grow them, how to eat them!

GemSquashRaw © J Horak-Druiff 2013

No doubt my non-South African readers are scratching their head and asking what the hell is a gem squash and why do we need a whole post dedicated to them. Well, let me tell you – it is probably the thing that South Africans abroad crave the most, and one of the more frustratingly unobtainable. In fact, when my half-sister emigrated to France in the 1970’s she missed gem squash so much that she smuggled a packet of seeds into France wth her and planted them in her garden there, just so that she could have a steady supply.  Biltong is made in most countries where Saffers congregate; to get boerewors, all you need is a good spice blend and a tame butcher to make it for you; and rooibos tea has practically conquered the world.  But gem squashes seem to be the holy grail for expat South Africans, judging by the deluge of comments that have followed my two previous posts on them.

So what is this mythical vegetable of which I speak?  Gem squash (similar – or possibly identical – to rolet squash, 8-ball squash or courgettes ronde) originated in Central America and belongs to the botanical genus Cucurbita, which includes melons (!) and can be subdivided into Cucurbita maxima (Hubbard squash and buttercup squash); Cucurbita mixta (cushaw squash); Cucurbita moschata (butternut squash); and Cucurbita pepo to which gem squashes belong, together with most pumpkins, acorn squash, marrows and cucumbers. More generally, though, squashes are categorised as summer or winter squash, which has little to do with their time of availability, but rather their time of harvesting and degree of maturity at harvesting. WInter squashes are generally left until the end of summer before they are harvested, making their skin tough and making it possible to store them for consumption at a later date. Summer squashes, on the other hand, are picked when they are still young and tender. They need little or no cooking (e.g. zucchini) but don’t keep as well as winter squashes. Included in this family would also be the wonderful pattypan squash (also called scallop squash) which was a staple food back home but not something I’ve seen generally available in UK supermarkets :-(

Gem squash falls into the summer squash category, but I must say that the gem squashes vary greatly in terms of how thick their skin is – a function of how early or late they were picked. The ones we get in we get in South Africa (often sold by the roadside in 5 or 10kg bags, and sooooo cheap!) tend generally to be pretty thick-skinned and once cooked, hold their shape to form their own little biodegradable bowl. In the UK, however, they live up to their summer squash description and the skin is often soft enough to eat once cooked. In South Africa we also get baby gems – approximately the size of ping-pong balls and cooked in the blink of an eye. You just eat the whole thing, no mess, no fuss – and they are SO sweet and delicious.

So if the supermarkets don’t sell them, the only way forward is to grow your own.  Judging by the number of queries I have received, lots of expats want to know how to grow gem squash, so here is a little guide, collated from various websites and reader comments.


  • Choose your location wisely as gem squash need a lot of space to grow. They send out long vines and will take over your vegetable patch if you allow them to.  Some growers construct A-frame trelisses for the vines to trail on which keeps the plants off the rest of your garden, and the fruit off the ground (where they might rot).
  • They are not frost tolerant and require temperatures of between 18C to 27C for optimum growth. The frost free growing season in the northern hemisphere is roughly between April and November.
  • Sow your gem squash in the sunniest spot in your garden (particularly in colder countries), in rich, well-drained soil. Add some compost to the soil before sowing for best results and sow the seeds in rows, 2cm deep and 1m apart. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged as this will cause the seeds to rot. Mulching is not necessary as the large leaves of the squash plant provide similar protection from moisture loss.
  • A handy hint from reader UK Stephen Brosin is to “dig the planting hole far too big, place a handful or two of 3-4 day-old grass clippings in the hole, add some compost and some slow-release fertilizer and then plant your seedlings on top. If you have a compost heap, grow your Gems on the heap!”
  • Gem squashes have similar growing requirements to cucumbers and prefer organic liquid feeds high in potassium.


Harvest takes place in early Autumn.  If you are planning to keep the squashes for a while, the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked when the skin is too hard to pierce with your fingernails.  However, it is unlikely that you will get to this stage in the cool Northern Hemisphere (see below for the problem of powdery mildew), so probably better pick to pick them as soon as they approach the size of tennis balls (or even earlier), regardless of how soft the skin is. If growing Rolet F1 squash, UK reader Stephen Brosin says: “Rolet F1 , if left just a bit too long, gives a very fibrous squash not at all like a pukka Gem. When picked young, however, the Rolet F1 makes a very passable substitute and is most enjoyable”.


The one problem that WILL arise wnhen growing gem squash (or butternuts, courgettes and cucumbers) in cool climates is powdery mildew, a fungus which strikes later in the growing season.  The growing season simply is not long enough and the onset of the cooler weather stresses the plants which makes them vulnerable to mildew for which there is no cure. To try and fight the onset of powdery mildew, readers have sent the following tips:

  • Grow the plants in full sun.
  • Take care not to wet the leaves when watering – rather make sure you water the soil directly, not the plant.
  • If possible, construct a temporary greenhouse over the plants with wooden battens and clear polythene sheeting, to keep water and cold winds off the plants.
  • Reader Ed says: “Gardeners and farmers in the USA use a fungicide containing myclobutanil for it. In the UK it is only approved for ornamental plants and fruit trees but I figured if it’s good enough for American gardeners I should give it a go!”
  • Some gardeners have experienced success by spraying affected leaves with a mixture of 1 part skim or low-fat milk to 9 parts water (a 10% solution of milk, in other words). Others say that 1 tsp. (approx. 5 mL) of baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) dissolved in 1 quart (just under a liter) and sprayed on the leaves will knock it back.  Although these may slow the powdery miildew, they will not kill it, but at least the plant may survive long enough to mature your crop.
  • Cut off badly affected leaves to encourage air flow and light to all parts of the plant.


If you are lucky enough to have grown a mature crop of gem squash, then you can harvest seeds from the fruit before cooking and grow more next year.  Reader keith Meintjies has this advice: “To harvest the seeds: Leave the squash on the vine until the vines die back, or buy mature squash that are not all green but have a touch of yellow/orange colour on their skin. Halve the squash, and scoop out the seeds before cooking. Rinse the seeds to remove them from the squash strands. Dry the seeds at room temperature for a week or so, then store them in a resealable plastic bag or old plastic 35mm film cannister.”


The gem squash is low in calories and contains useful amounts of vitamin A and C, as well as iron, folate, potassium and niacin.


Depending on where you live, it may be possible to buy gem squash fruit, seedlings or seeds.  Here is a list of the places I have found and that readers have told me about to buy gem squash, Rolet squash, courgettes ronde, 8-ball squash or Tondo Chiaro di Nizza – if you know of others, please e-mail me or leave a comment and I will add them.

In the UK:

W Robinson & Sons (as Little Gem squash seeds)

Chiltern Seeds   (as Tondo Chiaro di Nizza seeds)

Moles Seeds (as Rolet squash seeds)

Nicky’s Nursery  (as Rolet squash seeds)

More Veg  (as Rolet squash seeds)

Vegetable Plants Direct  (as Rolet squash plants)

The fruit themselves are available from Waitrose, Borough Market in London (and probably other farmers’ markets), and sometimes the large branches of Tesco & Sainsbury’s.  They also crop up fairly often in the Abel & Cole and Riverford organic boxes.

Reader April Jenneson has also very kindly said that you can e-mail her on and ask her to send you some seeds.

In Australia: (as fruit, when in season)
Shop 7 & 8 Upper Level Templestowe Village
Shopping Centre,
112 James Street
VIC 3106

Hahndorf Vegetable Market near Adelaide (as fruit, when in season)

Southern Harvest (as gem squash seeds)

Satooz website (as gem squash seeds or fruit)

Springbok Foods (as gem squash fruit, Nov to Apr)

Diggers Club (as gem squash seeds)

In NZ: (will deliver to the UK)

The Farm Store Kerikeri
8 Hall Rd Kerikeri
New Zealand
ph 09 4077607
Gem Squash seedlings. $2.50 pot of three

In the USA:

Park Seeds (as similar  Eight Ball F1 squash)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (as similar Tondo Scuro di Piacenza)

Reader Keith Meintjies has sent seeds as far afield as Alaska and countries in Southern Africa and has this to say:

“I have been providing free gem squash seeds in the USA for a number of years, and will continue to do so.  If you want some seeds, send an e-mail with your name and mailing address to

If you are outside the USA, send me a self-addressed envelope with sufficient US postage affixed. The seeds may, or may not, arrive. For example, I have sent seeds to Canada, but mail outside the USA may fall victim to customs.


OK, I hear you ask, that’s all fine and well, but what do you do with a gem squash?

  • You can peel and quarter the gems, scoop out the seeds and roast with olive oil. But personally, if I can avoid peeling a squash then I will!
  • You can do what my dad still does to this day: slice the squash in half around its equator, boil (or steam or microwave) until the flesh is soft enough to scoop out the seeds easily.  Then add a knob of butter in each hollow, mash the flesh inside the skin and season with cinnamon sugar.
  • Alternatively, if the idea of sweet vegetables is off-putting to you, try the same idea but with sea salt, black pepper and thyme. I have even mashed mine up with a balsamic dressing which worked well.  For something creamier, try my Rozenhof creamy gem squash recipe.
  • Prepare and steam the squashes as above, then fill each hollow with a spoonful of vegetables of your choice mixed with pesto and serve (also ideal as a vegetarian meal).
  • You can make gem squash stuffed with a beef mince and tomato ragu – hubby’s favourite.
  • You can make gem squash stuffed with a spicy creamed sweetcorn mixture and topped with cheese – my favourite way of eating them!

For more gem squash recipe inspiration, have a look at my dedicated Pinterest gem squash recipe board:


Follow Jeanne Horak-Druiff’s board Recipes | Gem squash on Pinterest.

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  1. Gillian says

    As one of those who hankers after that taste I have repeatedly tried to grow them, but up here in the australian tropics they take off and then just wilt from the heat, whatever the season. Thanks for showcasing this wonderful vegetable.

  2. says

    I was just saying to my wife last night that it would be nice to have a veggie garden at home. The only problem is that I’m a bit lazy to weed and we can’t water garden with a hose at the moment.

    • caroline Johnson says

      Hi everyone,
      Can you add another shop that sells gem squash regularly every summer in Australia please. it is the Hahndorf Vegetable shop, as you approach Hahndorf from Adelaide, South Australia on the left about a kilometre out of the village. I have just bought some now, in August which is his last until the next season. They grow them in Murray Bridge. It is also easy to grow them in southern Australia and has got my into growing my veggies in a huge vegetable garden which supplies us all year with salad and lots of fruiting veggies in the right season.

  3. says

    I love the way you right! You even make squash sound entrancing and fun! I never liked squash growing up but am now discovering it little by little and you make it sound so delicious and so necessary!

  4. gaby866 says

    hmm rather like the idea of growing it over a trellis thanks Jeanne.. this season’s vegie garden is just starting to come alive !

  5. says

    You speak as though boerewors was a given! Nee nee nee nee nee, bokkie :-)- ons sukkel nog! Taming a New York butcher is risky business. But I hope to have good news, soon.
    Must say I have not had gem squash for…a long time. When I ate them, growing up in SA, the poor things were boiled to death. But they are delicious when treated with respect and good butter. And the gardener in me is happy to see a How To for growing the sweet little squash…

  6. says

    *cries* I tried growing them here, but the constant rain at the time killed them. In no time, they fell to the ever-present ellendige mould. Now if I had read this post first, I may have had the savvy to put a cover over to protect them from too much rain. Live and learn, though I’ve used up all the seeds in that attempt. Hm… I must find me someone willing to mail to Brazil 😉
    Boerewors here is a no-no unless I make it myself. The butchers wail and beat their chests if I so much as mention mincing something like pork or bacon.

  7. says

    i had my first gem squash of the year last week – boiled, seeds scooped out, a bit of butter added and some garlic puree. absolutely wonderful.

  8. Tamaryin says

    Thanks for the advice on growing them. Gemsquash are unfortunately no easier to get hold of here in Germany. You will occasionally find some at an autumn fair, but I’d never seen them in the shops until last weekend, when I was delighted to find a few in a box full of assorted decorative gourds(of the knobbly, colourful, inedible kind), which were on offer. I picked them out and took them to the till, where I was warned that they are inedible and strictly for decorative puposes! Interesting, given that they are not only delicious, but not all that decorative! I stupidly told the cashier that I knew this particular kind and they were good too eat, and she became very distressed, worried that I would be poisoned. I had to assure her that I wasn’t really intending to eat them and just wanted them to decorate my flat(!?), before she calmed down. Crazy germans.

  9. Heidi Kennedy says

    I need help,planted some gem squash seeds from SA,plant’s were strong with lots of flower’s but never got fruit,what happend?I now live in SW of France,same thing happend with my butternut.yet baby marrows go mad.

    • Alan Smith says

      Hello Heidi, Male plants will not fruit ,try and plant a number of seeds in a propagation tray,
      place the small tray in a white pail with lid in full sun April+ do not over water,plant a raised bed when 8-10” high use bamboo stakes to trelliss the vines Pick the gems at tennis ball size and store, hang in orange net bags in shed will keep for 3-6 months.Good luck Alan

  10. says

    I loved them on our first visit to SA. Now we’re living here I rather take them for granted and don’t do as much with them as I could. I’ll have to try some of your ideas for serving them soon.

  11. says

    You are so right about missing these little babies , I have not had these for so many years now. It was one of the few veggies that i loved as child I remember always having two halves on my plate and a little butter in each – hmmmm bliss . Thanks for the heads up on where to get them .

  12. Fran says

    I have bought a huge pocket full and am worried that they will deteriorate before my family eats them. How well will they respond to freezing? After cooking maybe?

  13. Solly Menashe says

    Thanks for sharing your info on the gems. I am in Scottsdale, Arizona, missed having them so I have grown some here, but the moment the temperature goes over 100F (38C)they dont stand a chance. Fortumately the winters are mild so that is when I start planting.

  14. Rob says

    Okay I thought I was wierd, missing Gem Squash! have tried to grow them in Holland, but no luck. This year inside in front of the sunniest window, WOW, growing like crazy, full of flowers. BUT I do understand the birds and the bees bit, but seeing as I don’t have bees inside… the polination is not happening. I also can’t tel the male from the female flowers, they all seem to have a bulge below the flowers and when I open them there is a single (stamen – or whatever it is), does this mean that the female flowers are still on the way? the flowers are starting to drop off. ANYONE in the know please help, I NEED my gem squash on the table!!!!

  15. Gem quash fan says

    Hello from another Gem squash fan….My sister sent me some seeds a few months ago and they are growing like crazy in the garden……..IN…….SWEDEN!! Imagine that!
    I have been growing them for years here without any problems.

    • says

      Saw your comments on “cooksister” re GEM SQUASH that you’ve been growing in Sweden. Where in Sweden? I’m in the Stockholm skärgård area. When do you plant the seed? Direct outside or first in pots inside? Is the season in Sweden long enough for the gems to mature?
      I lived in Zambia for many many years and really miss gems.

  16. P A Smuts says

    Hello from Pieter and June in Cross Gates , West Yorkshire. We’ve always loved
    gems especially the young ones when we eat them skin and all.We have miss them terribly since coming to live in England. The few times that we’ve found them for sale in the shops we bought the entire remaining stock !Now we’ve decided to grow them in a decent little green house at the back of our house.We got our seeds from Robinsons.Wish us Luck!

    • Patsy says

      Hi P A Smuts, the lovely Gem needs constant sunlight. A green house? I have my doubts. I grew them in Derby out in my allotment and they grew long and healthy, mayne 8 feet in length. After the fruit was about the size of a golfball, the leaves started becoming dry, but no wories. I continued to water the main plant and the gems grew to about a tennis ball size. Must have had about 60 in all. I stored them in my shed through the late autumn and into early winter. They were great. I was born in Florida, Old Tvl. S.A.

  17. Peter Kent says

    Hi, I have five plants growing nice but loose the fruit at marble size only three will mature. Do you have to take off the male flowers like you would do with cucumbers?? Peter

  18. Jean says

    My husband composted our front garden with our own compost and low and behold, there are loads of gems and butternuts now growing. Picked the first 4 today and they are presently cooking and will accompany the ‘braai’ today. Lucky us.

  19. Peter Kent says

    Hi again, Sorry I had no help from all you nice people but thought someone would give me some help. regards, Peter Kent (16/11/2011)

  20. Gem quash fan says

    Peter Kent, no you don’t remove the any of the flowers, the problem is probably the location of the plants, ie too windy, too sunny, too cold, too dry, too wet…etc…try planting in a different spote and wind free. Mine grow in the southeast corner of the garden in deep potplants, free from wind, they are watered about once a day during the hottest period. I sow them indoors first and plant them out when temperatures are around 18 degrees night and day. I normally get about 5 kg of gemsquash from 6 plants (in sweden!!) hope this helps. Good luck

  21. marisa says

    Peter Kent – sounds like the bees are not pollinating the flowers. I had the same problem growing gemsquash this year until I remembered that I need to do the job myself – now i have loads of mature squash on my vine. I check the plant daily to see if new female flowers (with the fruit forming below them) are open, and if they are, I either break off a male flower and use it to pollinate, or use a paintbrush to transfer the pollen from male to female. It’s amazingly effective, and without this method I find that the squash shrivel and fall off as you describe. I have no idea why this is never mentioned on the seed packets! Hope this helps someone…

    • Jan says

      Thanks for all the info. I am one of those gem-starved SAffers wanting to produce my own in Brisbane.
      My plants are growing very well and I keep them well fertilized. I do have a problem though in that the fruit get ‘weened’ off when about marble size. I have tried bicarbonate of soda and also use fertilizer containing 10% potassium but this does not solve the problem. I can certainly accommodate some use full advice here.
      Many thanks in anticipation.


  22. Tershia-Marie Janse van Rensburg says

    Thank you for all the information – but I want to know if it is possible to freeze gem squash

    • Jeanne says

      I Tershia-Marie – I have not tried but I doubt it – I think because of their high water content, they woul just be much when you defrosted them. But the whole fruit, it picked after the skin is too hard to pierce with a fingernail) will keep for 2 months or more in a cool dark place. Or you could cook them, mash them with butter and then freeze the mash? Good luck!

  23. Keith Meintjes says

    I have been getting one or two requests for seeds per week for the past six years or so. Send an e-mail with your snail mail address to (USA only.)
    Interesting question, freezing gem squash. I imagine it would be fine: Cook the squash, scoop out the flesh, add butter, salt and spices to taste, and freeze in a ziploc plastic bag.
    By the way, Gem Squash are winter squash. They can be eaten when immature, skin, seeds and all. But, if you let them mature, they develop their distictive taste, and the shell can become quite hard. The skin is normally a very dark green, but may develop orange areas as it matures.
    There have been references to 8-ball squash. These are round zucchini (Italian squash, courgettes). They are summer squash, and are not gem squash.

  24. bob robertson says

    this is my third season growing gem squash, but this year for some reason a lot of my early females are turning light green and eventually dying—i do have some good healthy gems but am baffled by this

  25. says

    I’m growing gems in the greenhose, and have trained them up canes and across the roof.
    the problem is that after the flower has dropped off the fruit begins to rot from the flower end and drops off.
    any Ideas why?

  26. Don McLaren says

    I brought a packet of Mayford Rolet Gem Squash seeds back from SA on our last trip. I started by germinating some seeds in a small bowl sandwiched between paper towel and kept moist. After about a week or soon later I had some healthy seedlings. I then transferred them to a seedling tray with potting mix for another 2 weeks. When they had grown to a height of 75mm I transplanted them in well manured and composted soil under 70% shade cloth. I planted them out about a 6 weeks ago and the plants are becoming well developed. The only concern is the pollination of the flowers when they appear as I have heard that I may have to self pollinate. Any comments?

    • Dean says

      Hello – thanks for the interesting info on gems!
      I am in Perth, Western Australia and have been able to get gems quite cheaply of late so am able to satisfy my SAfrican pallate in that regard.

      I have been trying repeatedly to be grow these tasty veggies for the past 4 months and they flourish UNTIL the evil powdery milldew engulfs them and that is the end of the line. I have even tried growing them in my outdoor hydroponic system and have tried to treat them with the milk solution you mentioned but still the powdery milldew is relentless and the milk solution has no effect.

      It must be possible to grow them here – based on the plentiful supply of them in the veggie stores.. so for now, the quest continues to overcome the scourge of the powdey stuff. I would be interested to hear from anyone who lives near the coast in Perth who has found a way to beat the problem.

      dan in perth

      • Aylwin Halligan-Jolly says

        Hell Dean,
        I have grown a few plants from shop bought gem squashes and so far have numerous little squashes developing. Now I am worried about the mildew and wondered if something like a Bordeaux spray may help. Mildew of a sort affects my Gooseberry plants (like kills them ) and my grapevine,
        regards Aylwin, Doubleview, Perth

  27. Carol Leep says

    My daughter lives in Zimbabwe. When visiting her I really liked gems. We are planting some today. We can’t wait for them to grow and then we can enjoy them.

  28. Kirill says

    Hello from Russia
    Once I was been in SA and tried a tasty Gem Squash…wow…it’s wonderful!
    I’m waiting seeds from England now.
    Please answer me: is anybody growing Gem Squash by hydroponics method? Which size of length root gem squash?

  29. says

    I lived in the UK for many years and used to buy my precious gems at Waitrose. I would literally buy the entire stock if i found them, which was often, in winter.

  30. Henri says

    I have been in the USA now for 15 years and miss my gem squash the most. Found some seeds 2 years ago and have been growing my own since then. A little bit of heaven!! so far away from home.

    • helen says

      Hi growing some gem squash in my UK garden (in the north) and they are growing and cropping well on trellis……

      I got the seeds from They are much larger than a tennis ball i would say twice as big, should I harvest them as they grow to this size or leave them ? Also should I gradually pick them? as most plants have 5 fruits so far but with many more flowers ready to grow more, does harvesting help the the little ones grow better ?

  31. kerry says

    For the first times thanks to this forum I have managed to grow a handful of gems (I go out every morning and do the bees job for them and pollinate the female flowers) can anybody tell me if you are meant to pick them and leave them to dry a bit before cooking them as my first one was quite watery and not a very strong flavour?

  32. Don McLaren says

    You may have picked your gems too soon. What is your location? Did you plant from seeds purchased? When did you start planting the seeds and how long did it take to get your gems ready for picking.

  33. Helen says

    Hi growing some gem squash in my UK garden (in the north) and they are growing and cropping well on trellis……
    I got the seeds from They are much larger than a tennis ball i would say twice as big, should I harvest them as they grow to this size or leave them ? Also should I gradually pick them? as most plants have 5 fruits so far but with many more flowers ready to grow more, does harvesting help the the little ones grow better ?

    • Jeanne says

      Hi Helen – we grew them the past 2 years on our allotment in London and I would say although they DO get bigger, harvesting them when they are slightly larger than a cricket ball is probably about optimal in terms of eating. We gradually pick ours as they get to this size, allowing the plant to concentrate on growing the little ones. If you harvest once the skin has hardened, they keep for 2 months or more in a cool dark place, so unlike zucchini you don’t have to cope with a tsunami 😉

  34. Don McLaren says

    I tried the same technique and got some good seedlings and once planted out in the garden, I got some good growth with lots of male flowers and very few female ones. Before I could pollinate the few females, the leaves started to go mildew and the plants started to die. Does anyone know what causes the mildew rot?

    • Barrie says

      I bought a gem squash and took out the seeds and dried them for few weeks. Planted them and now have beautiful plants with lots of fruit in my garden. Help them to pollinate. In Perth WA on the coast

  35. Greta Jansen says

    A few expats have smuggled gem seeds in and I’ve just got a friend to grow some gems in her garden as I have only a small deck. My gems came up but shrivelled at 2″ which was very sad. Hers did well and I’ve had quite a few. The climate here is quite similar to Cape Town. Would love to get recipes, news, etc.

    Is it true that Mugabe has banned everything white in the country, e.g. cars, fridges, shirts? They all have to be repainted. God help the white cats and goats! People here just don’t believe me when I tell them these stories.

    Greta happily on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

  36. Don says

    Hi Alwyn,

    I did the same as you, had a good start on the growth of the vines, lots of flowers, but almost all male flowers and very few female so was not able to pollinate them by hand. Then the mildew started and killed off the plants. So have started again and just finished planting out my seedlings growth from seeds collected from Gems bought from an IGA supermarket inMyaree, Perth WA. I believe that a spay will be needed to control the mildew. I am going to talk to the dept of Agriculture this week on the subject.

  37. Fleur says

    I’m about to try growing some squash in Thailand. If anyone has any advice or has tried this before I would love to hear from you. I’ll try to remember to tell you all how it went.

  38. Maggie says

    I was brought up on these lovely Gem Squash. My Grandma used to grow them.
    When we moved to the UK she must have brought some seed over with her, as I remember having these when I went to visit or stay with her.
    Would love to get some or some seeds.

  39. Mark Zemack says

    Try pollinating some of the flowers by hand and then cap those flowers with a paper cone. Use a couple of male flowers and make sure they are full of mature pollen.
    Are you over fertilizing? The plants need lots of water on the ground – don’t spray the leaves or the flowers. Google how to ….. and read.

  40. Ed says

    Hi, just to let you know that there IS a cure for powdery mildew. Every year my squashes and courgettes got the mildew, so this year I googled it and found that gardeners and farmers in the USA use a fungicide containing myclobutanil for it. In the UK it is only approved for ornamental plants and fruit trees but I figured if it’s good enough for American gardeners I should give it a go.

    It’s sold as Systhane and stopped the first signs of mildew dead in its tracks. American sites recommended leaving at least three days between spraying and picking.

    • Zimbo says

      To stop mildew you need to create an alkali on the leaves. Use tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda, with a gallon of water – add tablespoon of cooking oil and tablespoon of liquid soap, mix together, and spray both sides of leaves and stems before midmorning on a sunny day. Use a frame and pots and keep separated by a couple of meters to prevent spread of mildew.

  41. Caryl says

    How are gem squash pollinated? I am growing them on my balcony and there are NO insects up here (except flies…) so I feel that I will have to pollinate by hand. The only problem is that although there definitely me flowers, I have not seen any female flowers, so I have no idea how pollination happens.

  42. Ann says

    Hi,at last I have grown gem squash in the West Midlands ,England,yes seeds from SA,but will save seeds,started the seeds on the cold greenhouse,then pricked out when had 2 true leaves,planted outside in June.,not much protection,ambled along,now fruits,have just picked 2good size ones ( slightly bigger than a tennis ball. And skins hard).but on reading need to leave 6weeks from picking to allow starches inside to go sweet.picked 2years ago gem squash I grew,then cooked,bitter as hell,’,,we have had s good summer,more squash to come,

  43. Alan Smith says

    Hello All,
    I have grown Gem squash here in Cornwall UK for the past 3 years on Bamboo trellises ,this year being rather wet and cool I am experiencing a lot of leaf mildew and strip off the leaves but it is difficult to stop it ,will try milk and also baking soda .I have used seeds from So.Africa , Namibia,Zimbabwe and Lydl Stores.Thank you for the recipes. Happy growing.Alan

  44. caroline says

    Squash plants do not have male and female plants. They all give rise to both male and female flowers and you can use the male bits to fertilise the female ones by rubbing some pollen from male into the female. If there are no female flowers you might like to add some potassium into the soil. ASk a nursery.

  45. Fi says

    Please can you help me. I planted some gem squash and all the little gems are turning yellow and falling off. Why do you think that is. Please could you reply to my email address.
    Many thanks

  46. poohbear says

    Hi – in the UK we get Gems once a year – in October. We buy as mush as we can but is there a way I can freeze them whole? I have in the past cooked and mashed them and then frozen them, but I would really like to try and keep them whole.

  47. Russell Holmden says

    Grew a bumper crop of gems this year ( my cousin, allotment in Wood Green North London) and have just finished eating some for lunch. we cook them whole in boiling water having pierced them first with a fork. When the shell becomes soft enough to push in with the back of the fork they are cooked. Add butter and pepper.

  48. EDI ROBERTS says


  49. Andre Weich says

    I the seed still good for planting after the gem has been cooked, i.e. from the leftovers on plates? We are currently paying $2 per squash in Sydney (about ZAR20).

    • whealan says

      Nope. But buy another one for $2 and take the seeds out before you cook it – in the oven instead of boiling it – and dry them on a piece of paper towel having rubbed off most (but not necessarily all) the flesh. They don’t need stratifying and keep for years so you will have a good stock.

  50. Diane. says

    I stumbled across these as an ‘odd’ item available from our local supermarket a year or two back and bought one out of curiousity. Turned out to be an inspired idea and got our neighbour (ex South Africa) extremely excited to know they are available here in New Zealand. :) Anyway, with not a clue with how to cook the first one I bought I allowed instinct to run amok and hoped for the best. And they were… the best. Love them! I simply cut them in half, deseeded them and added a scoop of butter, a sprinkle of garlic salt and a healthy slurp of maple syrup then threw them in the oven to bake. And that’s still how I do them. They’re one of the few veggies that my husband and I prefer over anything else on our plates when we have them. Maybe I should just cook up an entire meal of them once a week while they’re in season and stop kidding myself that anything else on the plate can compare. 😉

  51. LeRoy Judd says


    I live in Oregon in the US. I used to live in Namibia and enjoyed gemsquash (which we also called skorsies. I was able to buy them in Kenya when i lived there.

    Now, here in the US, I was getting them from Eureka farms near San Diego, CA but they lost their import license.

    I got some seeds from Canada last year, but I do not remember where.

    Please send me some Gemsquash or skorsie seeds so I can plant them in a month or two. I will send you a check if you tell me how much.

    My Address is 4675 Hayesville Ct., NE, Salem, OR 97305

    Thank you very much.

    LeRoy Judd

    • caroline says

      Hi Gary, you can order them from Diggers on line. or you can order them from Mark at He will post them.
      cut and paste that link looks like it is not going to work, as is.

      sew in spring. easy to grow. Spray with a mixture of 1/3 milk to water if it rains to prevent mildew which may plague you in your wet summer climate. that is to prevent mildew…not cure it.

  52. Vicki Mowrey says

    I’m too emotional too say anything fabulous (lol) except: thank you for providing this lovely site and access to all thing we miss so bl***y much! Cheers! I live 2 hours NW of NYC, near the Delaware River. My garden NEEDS gemmies this year, I hope I can get hooked up through Keith. <3

  53. Ricky says

    This website is fantastic and provides really useful inforation. I was looking for a long time and couldnt find anywhere in the UK where they sell the seedlings ready to plant and therefore started doing this myself with seeds from Africa. They have worked fantastically and am currently selling the seedlings for now and the gem squash to follow when they have grown.

    please let me know if you will be interested in the seedling plants or squashes.

  54. Alan Smith says

    Hello Tony,
    I have a few seeds available from Namibia I had purchased when we were there last year , just pay the postage from UK . Alan

  55. Belinda says

    Thanks for this post! I bought a gem squash for its good looks, and it sat there for a while before I knew what to do with it… Eventually put it in a delicious curry – hope this is not gem squash blasphemy!
    I’m in Perth, Western Australia – another supplier for your list is 2nd Ave Supa IGA, Mt Lawley.

  56. Merle Backler says

    Dear Jeanne,

    Thank you for this post. My RSA son, now living in Canada, misses gem squash. I’m forwarding this web address to him and trust he will find a seed merchant near him.

    Your recipes read delectably and I have requested email updates.

    Keep up the good work,

    Kind wishes,


  57. jacques says

    Hi, ya im trying to grow gems in south Florida, the vine is awesome and rapidly moving across my fence with hundreds of male bloomers….. That said, a little green/yellow worm, tiny tiny is destroying the leaves…. Any ideas to stop the little punks, second, i had about 30 gems themselves but at about golf ball side they die and shrivel up…. Its been grown in full sun good water for about 4 months…. I love gems and need help, anyone got suggestions thanks… JD

  58. Alan Smith says

    I resided in Tampa Bay for twenty six years and had success in growing Gem squash in slightly shaded conditions by using cane or bamboo racks over the plants ,also on trellises in slightly shaded
    beds , one has to treat the plants against cut worm , slugs etc by using slug bait . We are now in Cornwall UK and have had great success here to !We place the fruit in orange bags and place them in a wooden shed hanging from cup hooks from the roof. Good luck Alan.

  59. says

    Hi Jeanne,
    I stumbled upon your site while looking up “how to grow gems this year?”. I grew some last year and had a small crop as I sowed late. This year I planted early and I am seeing lovely gems getting bigger every day. I justed wanted to let you know that in Canada I purchased my gem seeds from the website
    Maybe some Canadians (ex SA) are also looking for seeds.
    You have a great blog with a lot of interesting posts. Anita

  60. Fran says

    Another awesome way to eat gems is cut them in half, par cook them, scoop the seeds out and stuff them with sauted mushrooms, crushed garlic, crispy bacon bits and top with a good matured cheddar, then grill till the cheese is brown and crispy. Not very healthy but we south Africans are not known for our healthy eating habits.

  61. Lisa Clayton says

    Hi there!
    Thanks for a great article about one of my favourite squashes and being a Saffa I can totally appreciate the effort required to grow these little is SO worth it :o)

    I thought I’d share an effective mould treatment I discovered recently that worked amazingly well – mix up a 40/60 milk to water spray and apply to leaves in hot weather – best to apply from the outset as prevention is better than cure but this works well even after the mould hits – happy gemming!!

  62. E Else says

    I’m in SA and will be planting these for the first time (they are readily available in any supermarket here but I wanted to try growing them myself).

    Just wanted to give my own advice when it comes to cooking them. I usually don’t cut them in half before cooking, I puncture them a few times with a knife and then put them in the pot to boil. When they are ready (the skin is softer to the touch), I take them out, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Then you can add butter and sugar or spice them to your preference.

    If of course you want to preserve the seeds, then you need to remove them before cooking the squash.

    Thank you for this wonderful post!