The History Of Squash & Indians

The history of squash & the indians: where did it come from? Why do we eat pumpkin pie when we celebrate Thanksgiving?

The Massachuset Indians called squash 'askutasquash' which, is where we get the modern name 'squash'. The Indian word means 'eaten raw'. An interesting idea, eating squash raw, since we thoroughly cook ours.

Almost all squash belong to either the Cucurbita maxima or Curcubita moschata species. The small fast growing kind eaten while the rind is still soft (summer squash) belong to Curcubita pepo. Pumpkins also belong to this species. The name pumpkin is derived from the old French word 'pompion' meaning ripe, or cooked by the sun.

Squash is native to North and South America.

What we know as 'winter squash' probably originated in northern Argentina near the Andes. When the conquistadores found this vegetable there it was still unknown in Central or North America.

C. pepo, pumpkins are native to Mexico and Central America. They were staples in the diet along with maize and beans. The seeds and flowers of the plant were important parts of the plant. The seeds were roasted and the flowers were eaten raw or fried.

C. pepo had spread all over N. America before Columbus ever set foot in the West Indies. Indian tribes had a fine cultivation technique for the plant as evidenced in the story of Squanto and the first pilgrims. Squanto taught the first white settlers how to cultivate maize and squash - crops never before seen by the Pilgrims -and thus saved them from certain starvation.

Which is why every Thanksgiving we sit down to a nice big slice of pumpkin pie.

Squash is not well known in Europe because it requires a long growing season and prefers hot, dry weather. It does not grow well in short, wet European summers.

The summer squashes have long been cultivated in Italy, and a few varieties developed in Italy have become popular in America today. Which is why everyone is always frantically searching for new zucchini recipes towards the end of July.

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