< Vegetables



Indigenous to the Americas, squash came into cultivation independently in eastern North America and in Mexico, where Native farmers first grew them for their oily seeds. Centuries of gardening transformed the wild C. pepo from a stringy-fruited inedible object to a pulpy vegetable. Because they required a period of intense heat and light during growth, squashes did not become a cultivated vegetable in England on northern Europe, until very late in the 19th century, so American methods of cultivation and cooking, derived ultimately from Native Americans, prevailed. While Natives grew three species of Squash: C. pepo, C. moschata, and C. mixta, only the first became a fixture in the Euro-American kitchen. This species gave expression to a number of varieties, roughly separated into summer squashes (or cymlings), winter squashes, and pumpkins (pumpkins have a separate entry here). Since all could interbreed and hybridize, the varieties of squash only existed as gardening conventions, policed by isolating beds and maintaining rigorous control over seed.

James J. H. Gregory, gardener, author, and popularizer of the Hubbard squash composed the bible of this vegetable’s cultivators, Squashes, How to Grow Them (1867). A proponent of growing squash on spaced mounds—the “hill method”—Gregory noted that market farming near cities usually necessitated intercropping with peas and early cabbages to make the dollar yield per acre sufficiently large to grow squash. His listing of the popular market varieties and their histories remains a useful glimpse at the original spectrum of available types.

1. Kenneth F. Kiple, A Movable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 116
2. J. J. M. Gregory, “Evaporating, Canning, Cooking and Exporting Squashes, “ American Agriculturist 42 (July 1883), p. 328.
3. Stuart Struever, Prehistoric Agriculture (Garden City, NJ: Natural History Press, 1971), p. 498.
4. James J. H. Gregory, Squashes, How to Grow them (New York: Orange Judd & Co., 1867).

Hubbard squash    History

originating in Marblehead MA during the first decade of the 19th century—brought into general cultivation in the early 1850s—“spherical at the middle, gradually receding to a neck at the stem end, and to a point usual curved at the calyx end, where it terminates in a kind of button or aconr. In color it is dark green, excepting where it rests on the earth, where it is of an orange color.

American Turban squash    History

a hybrid of the Hubbard, Autumnal Marrow, Acorn, and French Turban squash—“in dryness, fineness of grain, sweetness, delicacy of flavor, and richness of color, when fully ripened, it cannot be surpassed.”—nearly cylindrical with flatness at stem and calyx end.

Autumnal Marrow Squash    History

introduced in 1832 by J. M. Ives—similar in form to the Hubbard except less pronounced extensions on the ends, but colored rich lemon to orange—more watery than sweet and highly varliable in quality depending upon conditions of growth.

Winter Crookneck    History

the classic adornment of the old time kitchen, these long curved-necked squashes hung on the walls in multi-color array turning yellow as the winter grew deeper—ten to twenty-five pounds in weight with a coarse grained rather watery flesh—durable, with individual squashes keeping for up to two years without spoiling if the skin was intact

Yokohama    History

introduced by James Hogg from Japan in 1860—a dense fleshed, fine grained squash with yellow meat and a flavor like that of the crooknet. Not large, it knobby flesh is dark green when immature, rich copper when ripe.

Para Squash [Polk Squash]    History

an importation from Para, South America, it sprouts and a bush, but matures as a vine with runners—oblong, tea-green, ribbed, it weighs about three pounds—long maturing with dry flesh and rich flavor.

Yellow Bush Scollop, White Bush Scollop (Pattypan or Cymbal)    History

favorite in southern states—an exterior shell hardens around the squash as it ripens rendering it unfit for the table—they should not be cooked when the rind resists the thumbnail.

Green Striped Bergen (Sweet Potato Squash)    History

twice the size of a large orange, somewhat fluted—grown as ornamental gourds.

Custard Squash    History

hard stemmed, butter cream color, oblong, and deeply ribbed—attains a weight up to twenty pounds.

Squashes (Practical American Cookery 1860)    History

Summer squashes, if very young, may be boiled whole-if not, they should be pared, quartered, and the seeds taken out. When boiled very tender, take them up, put them in a strong cloth, and press out all the water—mash them, salt and butter them to your taste. The neck part of the winter squash is the best. Vut it in narrow strips, take off the rind, and boil the squash in salt and water till tender—then drain off the water, and let the squash steam over a moderate fire for ten or twelve minutes. It is good mashed—if mashed, add a little butter.

Summer Squash (American Matron 1851)    History

If the rind is tender, do not cut it off. Boil it in a bag, kept for this purpose. Use boiling water; three quarters of an hour will cook it sufficiently. Take the bag out into a pan and press it with the bottom of a saucer or with a ladle, till all the water runs out. Put it into a dish; add butter and salt; smooth over the top, then with a fork make rough lines from the edge to the centre.

Summer Squash or Cymbling (Unrivalled Cook-Book 1886)    History

Pare, quarter, take out the seeds, and lay the pieces in cold water; then boil until very tender; drain thoroughly; mash soft and smooth with butter, white pepper, and salt.

Cymlings, or Summer Squash (Virginia Cookery Book 1885)    History

In selecting cymlings take none that the thumb-nail cannot easily penetrate, and the white ones are preferable. Cut them into pieces, and boil in just enough water to cover them for about rhee-quarters of an hour, or until soft enough to mash; strain them through a colander to get rid of the seeds; then return them to a skillet or stewpan; add a large spoonful of cream, a small lump of sweet butter, and a little salt and pepper. Be sure send them to table hot. Colored cooks need to be warned not to flavor cymlings with bacon-grease, of which they are fond, but which is apt to render this delicious vegetable inedible for more refined palates.

Winter Squash (American Matron 1851)    History

Cut the squash in pieces; peel it, and take out the seeds, but do not removed the fringe, which is the sweetest part. Let your water boil before you put it in. It is better to put this into a bag, and allow the least possible quantity of water to keep it from burning. Squeeze it the same as above. Add butter and salt. Put it into your dish; smooth the top and pepper it.

Cymlings Fried with Bacon (Housekeeping in Old Virginia 1879)    History

Fry some slices of fat bacon in a pan. Remove the bacon when done and keep hot. Fry in the gravy some cymlings that have been boiled tender and cut in slices. While frying, mash fine with a large spoon, and add pepper and salt. Fry brown, and serve with the bacon, if you like.

Stuffed Squash (Successful Housekeeper 1882)    History

Pare a small squash and cut off a slice from the top; extract the seeds and lay one hour in salt water; then fill with a good stuffing of crumbs, chopped salt pork, parsley, etc., wet with gravy; put on the stop slice; set the squash in a pudding dish; put a few spoonfuls of melted butter and twice as much hot water in the bottom; cover the dish very closely and set in the over two hours or until tender; lay within a deep dish and pour the gravy over it.

Cymling Fritters (Housekeeping in Old Virginia 1879)    History

After boiling and running through a colander, mix with an egg, season with salt, pepper, and butter, make into cakes and fry a light brown.

Squash Pies (American Dishes 1883)     History

Vie pints of stewed and strained squash, two quarts of boiling milk, one and a half nutmegs, four teaspoonfuls of salt, five cupfuls of sugar, nine eggs, four table-spoonfuls of Sicily Madeira, and two of rose-water. Gradually pour the boiling milk on the squash, and stir continually. Add the nutmeg, rose-water, and sugar. When cold, add the eggs, well-beaten; and just before the mixture is put in the plates, add the Madeira. Butter deep plates, and line with a plain paste. Fill with the mixture, and bake in a moderate over for forty minutes.

“The winter squash makes a much better pie than pumpkins.” Mrs. N. Orr, DeWitt’s Connecticut Cook Book (New York: Robert M. De Witt, 1871), p. 59.

Cymling Pudding (Housekeeping in Old Virginia 1879)    History

Boil young cymplings, mash and run through a colander. Add one teacup of milk, three eggs a large lump of butter, pepper, and salt. Put in a buttered deep dish, and bake a light brown. For a change, you might line the dish with thin slices of butter bread, pour in the cympling batter and put some pieces of butter and grated craker on top.

Squash Biscuit (American Dishes 1883)    History

One cupful and a half of sifted squash, half a cupful of suag, half a cake of compressed yeast, or half a cupful of liquid yeast; one cupful of milk, half a teaspoonful of salt, four tablespoonfuls of butter, five cupfuls of flour. Dissolve the yeast in a scant half-cupful of cold water. Mix it and the milk, butter, sugar, salt, and squash together, and stir into the flour. Kneed well, and let it rise over night. In the morning shape into biscuit. Let these rise an hour and a half, and bake them half an hour.