Acorn Squash in History

Acorn squash are indigenous to the western hemisphere, so they were not known to Europeans until after the voyages of Columbus. Nevertheless pre-Columbian Americans had been using squash as a food source for as much as eight-thousand years. The acorn squash probably originated in Mexico and Central America.1 When first discovered only the seeds were eaten as the flesh was considered too hard to be of value. At the time the flesh was much thinner. The Indians, nevertheless, favored thicker skins, and by selection developed more fleshy squash. It is ironic that today the seeds are very often thrown away or composted.

Storing Acorn Squash

From their Central American origins, squash plants were carried throughout North America. Squash was planted and cultivated and highly prized. Since the seeds could be dried, surplus produce could be stored for use during lean times, or readily carried on journeys.

When European settlers reached the new world, they found many new foods, including corn and turkeys and squash. The Indians they met in Massachusetts called squash askutasquash.2 The word meant "eaten raw", possibly referring to the seeds. The Conquistadors commented on the plentiful "melons" they found in their perambulations. Columbus brought squash back to Spain from the New World.3 However, cultivation of squash did not catch on in all of Europe as it did not do well in Northern European climates. Nevertheless, squash cultivation spread to much of the rest of the world, from Asia to Africa.

The initial settlers in both Massachusetts and Virginia made note of squash. Their first reaction was negative. However, when they realized the storing qualities of squash and tried different ways to prepare it, they became great advocates. The vine became a staple of colonial gardens. In fact both Washington and Jefferson grew squash on their plantations.4 Since that time it has proved to be an important crop. Today squash is not extensively commercially grown in the United States. However, it is very popular in gardens. It is produced commercially in Argentina, China, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Romania, and Turkey.

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  1. Iowa State University
  2. Squash Name
  3. Ag Facts
  4. Library of Congress

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