“I’M HAVING A SQUASH TASTING,” my neighbor said. “Come on over and try some varieties you’ve never tasted before.”
|Photo by B. A. Nilsson|
Ah, the associations one bite of the butternut inspires! Decades of holiday meal memories live in that first bite, in its earthy sweetness and flaky texture, crying out for the reassurance of a pat of melting butter. This kind of squash is so season-specific that its positively Proustian.
Thick skin and a plump size classify it as a winter squash, as opposed to those thin-skinned summer varieties like zucchini. The genus of all squash is Cucurbita; the large winter squash generally fall into the species Cucurbita maxima, while smaller types such as butternut are C. pepo.
Just as it’s a rambunctious garden guest, squash has an all-over-the-place history. The word itself comes from the Narragansett “askutasquash,” which means that it’s green and can be eaten raw, suggesting that even Native Americans had too many zucchini on their hands.