Squash Varieties a Hundred Years Ago

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, September 27, 1914: <<no entry>>

Source: Vegetable Gardening (1910) by Samuel B. Green
Picture Source: Vegetable Gardening (1914) by Samuel B. Green

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sigh. .. Another day with no diary entry. so here’s a trivia question:

Question: Did Grandma’s family eat butternut squash? . . . zucchini?

Answer: no

I found a picture of squash varieties in a hundred-year-old book on vegetable gardening—and was surprised that it did not include either butternut or zucchini squash.

I then did a little research and was amazed to discover that neither butternut nor zucchini was available in the US a hundred years ago.

The Silvia International website states:

Butternut squash, also known in some countries as the butternut pumpkin, is the most popular of the winter squash, and was originally developed in Massachusetts in the 1940s.

Photo source: Wikipedia
Photo source: Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia:

The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and probably was first cultivated in the United States in California.

Photo source: Wikipedia
Photo source: Wikipedia

32 thoughts on “Squash Varieties a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Interesting! My mom only planted yellow “crookneck” squash. Once in awhile, someone would give her some of the little yellow white “simlins” – I have no idea how to spell that, or what the real name for them is – and she would cook those with her crooknecks.
    I’m guessing that her parents weren’t familiar with the zucchini or butternut, so she just went with what she knew!

    1. It’s interesting how different words are used in different parts of the country. I think that a simlin squash what I’d call a pattypan squash. . . and what the old picture caption called a scallop squash.

  2. I had never even heard of zucchini until an Italian neighbor gave me some from her garden in the 1960s. I had no idea what to do with it.

    I didn’t realize that butternut squash didn’t come along until the 1940s.

    1. I still try to buy a hubbard squash each fall. The farmer that I usually buy it from says that I’m one of the few people who still buy them–and that of those who do purchase them, most think that they are a type of gourd and just use them for decorating purposes.

  3. We are huge squash fans in this house and can’t imagine summer without zucchini. Funny how things we take as commonplace today were rare and special just a few decades ago. My mother still remembers her first banana!

  4. Huh! That’s so interesting! My favourite is spaghetti squash and it wasn’t around during the time of this diary either.

    So, how did this Chinese squash make its way to America? You will never guess! (No, it wasn’t via Marco Polo.) In the 1930’s, the Sakata Seed Company, a Japanese firm, was looking around for new types of plants to promote, and came upon the Chinese squash. They developed an improved strain and introduced it in seed form around the world. The Burpee seed company in the US first picked up and marketed Sakata “vegetable spaghetti” seed (as it was then called) in 1936.

    info found here: http://www.allaboutspaghetti.com/spaghettisquash.html

    Diana xo

  5. I love to see the different varieties. I planted squash seeds of a variety called “Turks Turban” earlier this year, but though there have been lots of flowers I don’t think I’m going to get any squash now. I’m a little disappointed because the patterns are very pretty. I never cease to be amazed by the new squashes I come across.

    1. It’s too bad that your Turban squash plants didn’t get any squash on them. I’ve occasionally seen them at the supermarket; and they look like a fun variety.

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