Carnival Squash – only a vegetable but…

December 1, 2021 § Leave a comment

In the local market, among the massive pumpkin display and decorative gourds for sale, was a very small variety of squash that caught my eye. I brought one home to admire nature’s handiwork. The label was useful for identification, and I thought that I had never noticed this before now.  Read on. I learned that it was developed in 1991 and later, commercially grown. At my age, this is recent and new.

Carnival Squash is a cross between an acorn and sweet dumpling squash, it’s a round, mini-sized winter squash with a deeply indented stem area with skin that is white or yellow, with green jagged stripes. It is very sweet in flavor with tender light orange flesh. Squashes of the Cucurbita pepo acorn group were domesticated by Native Americans then later made their way to Europe and Asia, but I wanted to know more about this.

This is an excerpt from an article by Native American foods expert Lois Ellen Frank, “History on a Plate…..” on History.com: “Corn, beans and squash, called the Three Sisters by many tribes, serve as key pillars in the Native American diet and is considered a sacred gift from the Great Spirit. Together, the plants provide complete nutrition, while offering an important lesson in environmental cooperation. Corn draws nitrogen from the soil, while beans replenish it. Corn stalks provide climbing poles for the bean tendrils, and the broad leaves of squashes grow low to the ground, shading the soil, keeping it moist, and deterring the growth of weeds.”

This squash is a descendant of squashes native to Mexico and was developed and introduced to the market in 1991 by plant breeder Ted Supernak of Harris Seeds (founded 1879) in North America with the intent to improve on the Sweet Dumpling Squash.  The color vibrance in the rind is the result of seasonal temperature variations with warmer temperatures producing squash with slightly more pronounced green stripes.  

The Dumpling variety specifically was first developed in 1976 by Sakata Seed Corporation of Yokohama, Japan. At the time it was a popular practice in Japanese squash breeding to take larger popular American squash varieties and breed them to be smaller in size. These are more home garden and home chef friendly since they grow on shorter trailing vines and benefit from being trellised to keep fruits off the ground.

It takes a plant nearly three months to grow one petite squash, a treasure from soil.  I am grateful for all the labor it takes to bring this to my table that includes germinating seed, planting, watering, harvesting, packaging, shipping, and transport to my market.   

It was delicious roasted.  Think about where your food comes from, when and how did it arrive in America.  There is so much to know. Be thankful. Stay curious.   

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