It sprawls and creeps over the ground in a greedy swarming growth. Unlike its cousins in the surrounding garden squash is visibly aggressive in its rapid expansion. Hairy lime-green leaves and curling tendrils hang from strong vines sprouting large buttery yellow flowers, all of it untamed, climbing fences and walls in a wild and beautiful fertility. Our word for this vegetable fruit is an abbreviation of askutasquash, a word in the Narragansett language meaning ‘a green thing eaten raw.’ Native to the Americas, squash has been in cultivation for 9,000 years.
There has been some dispute over the origins of squash. Cucumbers, melons and gourds are Old World plants, but squash and pumpkins were cultivated by Native Americans long before Europeans arrived in the Americas. They were a part of the riches discovered and described by Columbus and those that followed him. In a 1672 book by John Josselyn, New England Rarities Discovered squash was described this way: “A kind of melon or rather gourd, for they sometimes degenerate into gourds. Some of them are green, some yellow, some longish, like a gourd, others round like an apple…All of them are pleasant food, boyled and buttered and seasoned with spice.”
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. The photos above and below are a mix of images from two books:
• The Book of Ingredients by Philip Dowell & Adrian Bailey
• The Vegetable Book by Colin Spencer
The sprawl of summer squash and baby pumpkins in this picture is a homegrown photograph of Wednesday night’s side dish.
Check here for an outstanding squash recipe, a favorite of mine.