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Fossil range: {{{fossil_range}}}
Yellow squash
Yellow squash
Plant Info
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Scientific classification
C. mixta - cushaw squash
C. moschata - butternut squash
C. pepo - most pumpkins, acorn squash,
summer squash, zucchini[1]
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Superorder: {{{superordo}}}
Order: Cucurbitales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Cucurbitaceae
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Genus: Cucurbita
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Species: C. maxima - hubbard squash, buttercup squash

C. mixta - cushaw squash
C. moschata - butternut squash
C. pepo - most pumpkins, acorn squash,
summer squash, zucchini[2]

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Squashes are four species native to North America of the genus Cucurbita, also called pumpkins and marrows depending on variety or the nationality of the speaker. In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, depending on whether they are harvested as immature fruits (summer squash) or mature fruits (winter squash). Compare Gourds.

Summer squashes, including young vegetable marrows (such as zucchini [also known as courgette], pattypan and yellow crookneck) are harvested during the growing season, while the skin is still tender and the fruit relatively small. They are consumed almost immediately and require little or no cooking.

Winter squashes (such as butternut, Hubbard, buttercup, ambercup, acorn, spaghetti squash/vegetable spaghetti and pumpkin) are harvested at maturity, generally the end of summer, cured to further harden the skin, and stored in a cool place for eating later. They generally require longer cooking time than summer squashes. (Note: Although the term winter squash is used here to differentiate from summer squash, it is also commonly used as a synonym for Cucurbita maxima.)

Archeological evidence shows that squash was first cultivated in Mexico some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago [3]. Its cultivation subsequently spread across the Americas. Squash was one of the "Three Sisters" planted by Native Americans. The Three Sisters were the three main indigenous plants used for agriculture: maize (corn), beans, and squash. These were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided groundcover to limit weeds. The beans provided nitrogen to the roots of all three crops.

The squash fruit is classified as a pepo by botanists, which is a special type of berry with a thick outer wall or rind formed from hypanthium tissue fused to the exocarp; the fleshy interior is composed of mesocarp and endocarp. The pepo, derived from an inferior ovary, is characteristic of the Squash Family (Cucurbitaceae).

In addition to the fruit, other parts of the plant are edible. Squash seeds can be eaten directly, ground into paste, or (particularly for pumpkins) pressed for vegetable oil. The shoots, leaves, and tendrils can be eaten as greens. The blossoms are an important part of native American cooking and are also used in many other parts of the world.



Bee pollinating a zucchini squash
As with all other members of the family, the flowers come in pollen-bearing male form, and the ovary-bearing female form, with both forms being present on the plant. Squash has historically been pollinated by the native North American squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, but this bee has declined, probably due to pesticide sensitivity, and most commercial plantings are pollinated by honeybees today. One hive per acre (4,000 m² per hive) is recommended by the US Department of Agriculture. Gardeners with a shortage of bees often have to hand pollinate. Inadequately pollinated female squash flowers will usually start growing but abort before full development. Many gardeners blame various fungal diseases for the aborted fruit, but the fix proves to be better pollination not fungicide.

Squash species

Varieties of squash

Four species of the genus Cucurbita are called squash or pumpkins rather indiscriminately.

  • C. maxima includes the large winter squashes (such as Hubbard and Banana) and some large pumpkins, and numerous smaller varieties such as Buttercup and Mooregold. On this species the peduncle (fruit stem) is spongy and swollen, not ridged.
  • C. pepo includes the small pie pumpkins, standard field pumpkins, acorn squash, vegetable spaghetti, zucchini, summer crookneck squash, pattypan and most other summer squashes.
  • C. moschata includes butternut squash, among others
  • C. mixta includes the cushaw varieties.

While squashes and pumpkins are notorious for producing hybrids when grown within pollinator range of each other, the different species do not usually hybridize with each other.

You may find this gallery of squash varieties helpful.

Squashes and cooking

Template:Wikibookspar Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit (being the receptacle for the plant's seeds), and not a vegetable.


The English word "squash" derives from askutasquash (literally "a green thing eaten raw"), a word from the Narragansett language, which was documented by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, in his 1643 publication A Key Into the Language of America. Similar words for squash exist in related languages of the Algonquian family such as Massachusett.


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