Squash: Origins and Effects on the New and Old World

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Brian Lee, Jordan Louie, Roy Xu 5/23/13
The Colombian Exchange: Squash Period: 5
Squash the Underrated Crop
Origins
The word squash comes from the word askutasquash, used by the Narragansett Native Americans meaning: eaten uncooked. Squash is one of the oldest known crop, with evidence of seeds found in Ecuadorian caves from up to 12,000 years ago. Squash was referred as one of the 3 sister crops by Iroquois Native Americans, where the other two “sister” crops were maize, and beans. They were referred as sister crops because maize created a supporting structure for bean vines to climb, while the bean rooted the corn to the ground, and provided nitrates for all three sister crops. Squash kept out weeds, moisturized the soil, and kept insects and animals away with prickly stems. Squash are generally split into two varieties, one being winter squashes and summer squashes. The summer variety was grown and used generally throughout the Americas by the Native Americans as a staple part of their diet, and they had edible soft rinds. The winter variety originates from northern Argentina in the Andes, and had a tough and strong rind. The winter variety was used as a food source during the winter, as they could be stored throughout the winter, and were especially important to the Wampanoag Indians.

Impact on the New World
In the beginning settlers did not appreciate squash. It was until that settlers realized that squash could be stored during the winter without much care, that they started to appreciate it more. Because squash made it possible for the harsh winters to be survivable it slowly became part of their staple diets. For example, one of the reasons why the pilgrims were able to survive through their first few years was because they were taught by neighboring Native Americans how to raise and cultivate squash and maize, which allowed them to have food for the winter and make it through without starving....
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