Dietribes: Squashing Pumpkins


"¢Â Evidence suggests that squash has been around for thousands of years, as it is native grown on 3 continents and has so many derivations. From Summer squash (which includes zucchini) to Winter squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, etc) and everything in between (including pumpkins!), the squash has long been an important part of human consumption.

"¢Â Squash was one of the "Three Sisters" (the three main indigenous plants used for agriculture: maize, beans and squash) planted by Native Americans. These were usually planted together: the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans and shade for the squash, the squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds, and the beans provided nitrogen fixing for all three crops.

"¢Â The name "squash" comes from the Narragansett Native American word 'askutasquash', which means "thing eaten green" (I guess there weren't that many at the time!)

"¢Â Why are some squashes defined as summer versus winter? The summer types (yellow, zucchini, or scallop) are fast maturing, have soft rinds, and are consumed when the fruit is immature and quite perishable. Winter squashes take longer to mature (one hundred days versus fifty) have a long storage life (several months versus two weeks), durable rinds, and are consumed when the fruits and seeds are fully mature.

"¢Â The Pilgrims may not have had sweetened cranberries, pumpkin pie or sweet potatoes at their first Thanksgiving, but they did have squash.

"¢Â For a squash you can eat AND use as a handy decoration, consider getting a Turban Squash.

"¢ Squash can also be used for art (such as in this example: Oh my Gourd, it's a giant squid squash!)

"¢Â Relatives of the squash can serve as more than decoration, though: they can also be used as instruments, such as in The Vegetable Orchestra, which performs music solely on instruments made of .... you guessed it! Vegetables.

"¢Â However, squash has not yet proven itself as an Olympic sport ... yet. A bid to get squash into the 2012 Olympics failed, but it has been shortlisted as a sport for the 2016 games. In 2005, Squash was voted into the London 2012 Olympic Games ahead of Karate, Roller Sports, Rugby and Golf - but then failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required to become ratified as an actual Olympic sport.

"¢Â The game of squash has, however, already contributed tangentially to history. Work on the first man-made atomic reactor was conducted at the University of Chicago. Space was found under the unused football stands of Stagg Field, in a converted squash-racquets court (the Soviets would later translate its name to "pumpkin field").

"¢Â What are some of your favorite types of squash? Butternut (oven roasted) tops the list for me. Has anyone out there ever played squash? It kind of terrifies me, but I'm intrigued.

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"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.