May 27, 2014
Footprints: a veggie, a fruit, a game and a recipe!
It has both male and female. The offspring of one of the world’s oldest things, it is considered a vegetable although botanists classify it as a pepo or berry. It can be as small as 1.6 inches or 4 centimeters and as large as 911.2 kilograms or 2009 pounds. The present-day genus is found only in the New World, appearing in the Americas before humans did and its domestication dates back eight thousand to ten thousand years ago. They come in varying colors and some are round while others are straight and long. There are some with varying colors, good only for decoration, and some have crooked necks. Some seeds were carried on ocean currents to Asia and became water containers, their use becoming popular in the Middle Eastern desert climates. Some even speculate that these seeds did not originate in the Western Hemisphere but traveled to the New World at the end of the ice age by travelers that would become known as American Indians.
So what is this thing of many types, many colors, many purposes, many lands that still stumps historians and biologists? It is the happy or scary decoration placed on a front porch in the autumn. It is the musical holder of seeds known as the maracas. In India, one form is strung with gut and played as a guitar. In some Carribean countries, one version is worked, painted, and carried as a purse and in other countries, it is used as a float when teaching swimming. It is a food source of many vitamins and other nutrients and found in dishes all over the world. In early 2014, it was decided that perhaps its origin was from Africa, from a region known to theologians as the supposed home of the Garden of Eden.
Although the scientific name is Cucurbita, we all know this item of many forms and uses by the Narragansett Indians’ name – squash. Technically, the Rhode Island tribe called askútasquash, but the noted Roger Williams found the later syllable more pleasing to the colonists’ language.
Of particular interest is that the squash has both summer and winter forms. It has adapted well to its environment with some forms needing very little water while others are the typical garden variety that likes a weekly watering. The squash has uses for most every country and every aspect of life – health, medicinal, decoration, clothing, and the arts. It relies heavily on the insect world for pollination but can survive without it. It is hot and cold, social and independent, practical and aesthetic, varied in color, healthy and, in some forms, toxic.
Man has a great deal in common with the lowly squash. First of all, its medicinal properties and health benefits aid greatly in our quality of life. Used as the basis for some cocktails and energy drinks, it lends itself well to casseroles, features quite prominently when used as filler for things such as lasagna and meat pies and when fried the quash can be an appetizer. In each case, it adds to the nutritional value of the meal or dish in which it is featured or is used as a compliment. People in the southern Americas have used the gourd form of the Cucurbita and turned it into an art form as well as the basis for many Latin instruments used in music. Additionally, Hindu and other eastern religions and spiritualities incorporate the gourd into their services and meditations. Shoes have been made from gourds as well as handbags and carrying cases. While its presence goes largely unnoticed, the Cucurbita has been a major influence in the world and in man’s survival. And yet, most of us take it for granted.
What color eyes does your mail carrier have? How about the bank teller that cashed your paycheck? When did you last pay respect to the fast food worker that gave you your order as you hurried to work to the train or public transportation worker that ensured your safety as you hurried to your next appointment? They, like the squash, come in all types, sizes, shapes, and colors. They each have qualities that enhance and ensure our livelihood and yet, we often take them for granted, assume that because they earn a salary, that is the only thanks they need.
No Cucurbita plant grows alone. It needs a host environment, pollination, water, sunshine or light, and the chance to grow. Mainly it needs the chance to grow. Yesterday we honored those who had sacrificed their lives for the cause of our lives. Yesterday, in the town where I live, someone died. Most towns experienced someone dying since dying is also a part of the cycle of life and yes, even for the squash. The squash is not a perennial plant; it dies when the temperature reaches freezing. However, it does produce seeds that can be saved and planted for the next growing season. So while it’s cycle of life is for one growing season, it leaves behind the chance for new life.
People leave their footprints on our souls when they pass through our lives. Many times, whether that footprint is positive or negative will depend on us, not them. When we give them a chance to grow, when we respect them, they will enhance our lives. Life is a lot like the game of squash, a game played by two or four on a racquet in which players take turn hitting a ball. The key thing is that the players take turns and the best attribute for playing squash is agility.
Life requires agility as well as respect. When we stop putting people into specific categories, we give them the chance to become agile, to grow. Usually we think of squashing someone as limiting them but maybe we need to start thinking in terms of the squash – a multi-faceted plant that has grown in usage and location….and survived. When we treat each other with respect and let each other grow, then mankind will survive. We can make a difference with out footprints!
Recipe: Pasta Cucurbita – Hot or Cold!
1 ½ cups sliced red onion 1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed ¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 cups of sliced summer squash 2 cups of sliced winter squash
1 ½ cup sliced tomatoes 3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter ½ cup lemon juice or the juice of one large lemon.
2 cups cooked angel hair pasta or cappellini
Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet on medium-high heat and add onions, mushrooms. Stir for three to five minutes over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add squash, garlic, and tomatoes, stirring occasionally for five minutes. Add cilantro and remove from heat and cover. Combine with drained pasta and return to heat for three minutes. Serve warm, adding grated parmesan cheese if desired. This also works as a cold salad when used as a left-over.