Mexico is at the center of squash diversity as most species of squash grow in Mexico.
Archeologists found chilacayote squash seeds (unique to Central America) dated to approximately 700 B.C., in the valley of Oaxaca. Squash is a vegetable unique to the Americas.
Archaeobotanical studies in Mexico also suggest that squash may have been domesticated more than 10,000 years ago. Zuchini and pipiana pumpkins would be considered the first domesticated squash species in the Americas.
Thus, cultivation of pumpkin and squash has been carried out in Central America for thousands of years.
Squash come from a creeping, climbing and subshrub plant. The plant is characterized by large leaves with deep lobes. The flowers are yellow and there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The flowers are pollinated by various insects, including bees, thus promoting hybridization between related species. The stem is covered with a thin layer of “hairs”.
Squash flowers are edible.
Squash plants are annual plants, that include zucchini, pumpkins, arotas, tamalas or tamalayotas, pipianas, chompas (tzompos) and chilacayotes.
Some of the domesticated squash species include:
- Pipiana, arota, spotted, tecomata, chihua (Cucurbita argyrosperma subsp. argyrosperma)
- Chilacayote (Cucurbita ficifolia)
- Kabocha, zapallo (Cucurbita maxima)
- Hairy squash, helmet-like, tamalayota, k´uum (Cucurbita moschata)
- Güicha, Castile, tsol, india (Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo)
Squash is of the genus Cucurbita of the Cucurbitaceae family.
Squash plants are highly resistant plants that can develop almost anywhere. Squash is high in nutritional value.
Wild pumpkins are greenish, globe-like with vertical stripes that are light green to beige. They grow as vines, trepadoras, and their flowers are pollinated by bees.
In Mexico, squash flowers are eaten and served in delicious meals. tasty soups, in quesadillas, tamales and chiles rellenos (stuffed poblano peppers).
Wild pumpkins are not edible for humans, as they have high levels of cucurbitacins. Their taste is bitter, and animals do consume them.
Different varieties of squash and pumpkins are cultivated in Mexico.
Winter pumpkins are larger than summer pumpkins. Their skin covering is thicker and they can be a variety of yellow and green, often orange. They are usually prepared in recipes and dishes that are sweet, or in desserts.
Squash and pumpkins are cultivated practically in all regions of Mexico, alongside corn and bean agrosystems.
There are over 11 squash species that are wild, of which 5 wild squash species are endemic to Mexico. Of the 15 species of squash, 13 of the species are found in Mexico.
There are approximately 20 subspecies.
Mexico is one of the top ten producers of pumpkins worldwide. Squash is mainly produced in the Mexican states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Tlaxcala, Nayarit, Hidalgo, Puebla and Morelos.
High yields are obtained during the spring and summer months, and it is estimated that over 8,000 hectares are cultivated yearly.
The production of pumpkins in Mexico is considered profitable trade as there is national and global demand. Much of the total production is destined for the international market.
In Mexico, the varieties that are considered the most popular are Creole zucchini, castile squash, Italian pumpkin, melon squash and kabocha squash.
In Mexico, numerous products are made from squash and pumpkins. These include sweets, creams, oils, roasted seeds, puddings, and preserves.
In rural areas of Mexico, squash has been used for medicinal purposes and as soaps.
Author: All Goods Online
Anonymous. 1988. Book of Chilam Balam from Chumayel. Translated from the Mayan language to Spanish by Antonio Medis Bolio. Secretaría de Educación Pública. México, D. F. 177.
Lira S. R., C., C. Rodríguez J., J. L. Alvarado, I. Rodríguez, J. Castrejon y A. Domínguez M. 1998. Diversidad e importancia de la Familia Cucurbitaceae en México. Acta Botánica Mexicana. 42:43-77.
Whitaker, T. W. y W. P. Bemis. 1975. VIII. Origin and evolutions of the cultivated Cucurbita. Torrey Bot. Club 102(106):362-368.