#15. Squash (Part 1 of 5)
“Askuta squash, their vine apples, which the English from them call squashes, are about the bigness of apples of several colours… sweet light wholesome refreshing.” –Roger Williams (17th Century)
Squash: The Prized Ground Fruit of the East:
The Indigenous Peoples have not only enjoyed the pleasant flavor of squash for thousands of years now, they have been cultivating squash (and squash relatives) for just as long here in Eastern North America. By 1000AD these “ground fruits” found themselves planted among new company, in vast cornfields, purposely given ample space for vines to spread and cover the soil between the corn and (new-to-arrive) bean plants – a farming practice often referenced to as Three Sisters Cultivation (see post #13).
Squash (including pumpkins) were grown and coveted for their sometimes bright, sometimes rich flavor, though Europeans often noted Native squash for its sweet flavor. Its flesh was added to soup, bread, and “samp” – a favorite dish of corn mush (see post #9). Squash and pumpkins were also enjoyed unadulterated, just roasted and mashed… or plain and raw – the name “squash” is shortened from the Algonquian term “askutasquash” meaning “to be eaten green” (possibly insinuating before ripeness and/or consumed uncooked, as in eaten raw). In New England, Champlain was given squash the size of his fist in which he and his expedition ate as a salad, most likely taking their cue from the Native folks who enjoyed squash both raw and cooked. Winter and summer squash were cultivated in the East and enjoyed in a number of preparations. To be continued…
(“Like” and follow us – https://www.facebook.com/WoodlandIndianEDU/ – to see more, read more, learn more as we continue to share more Native Foods November posts. Photo: A “Three Sisters stew” of dried squash, corn and beans simmers in a preColumbian-style clay cooking pot during a WIEP Foodways Program)