Squash tidbits – and giants

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2D

Native to the Americas, summer squash are varieties of Cucurbita pepo, the same species that gives us pumpkins and gourds. "Pepo" refers to its fruit, a special kind of berry.

Archaeologists have found proof that American Indians cultivated squash at least 8,000 years ago. Along with corn and beans, squash is one of the "three sisters" – crops that were traditionally grown together.

First documented by colonists in the 1600s, the name squash comes from "askutasquash," which means "a green thing eaten raw" in the Algonquin language of tribes that lived in what's now Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

In the 1600s, squash made its way to Europe, where it flourished. Summer squash eventually found its way into cuisines worldwide.

Zucchini, the most famous of summer squash, is an Italian variety developed near Tuscany. Its name comes from zucca, the Italian word for squash.

Italian immigrants brought zucchini to America, where it was first grown in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1900s. From that toehold, zucchini took over American gardens.

Notorious for their fast growth, zucchini can get very big in a hurry. Grown in England, the world's longest zucchini on record was 69 1/2 inches (and 65 pounds). The heaviest zucchini, also grown in England, weighed in at 113 pounds.

– Debbie Arrington

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