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Why would native Americans have planted and dried summer squash as opposed to winter squash?
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In one of Carol Deppe's books, she mentioned that various groups of Native Americans would dry summer (immature) squash for the winter. It sounds like they put quite a bit of effort into this; it was not a sideline. They also grew winter squash for winter storage, and would dry the ones that didn't make it all the way to maturity.

Now, I can see growing summer squash to fill the hungry gap sooner. And drying leftovers and immature winter squash is also easy to get. But why would have they specially planted "summer" types and put a lot of work into drying them? Given hypothetical ideal conditions, a hundred square feet of summer squash can produce 36,100 calories in a summer, and a hundred square feet of winter squash can produce 63,350 calories in a summer. And those winter squash don't need the extra work of slicing and drying.

Now, it is true that I just took the hypothetical weight of squash produced and multiplied by calories per pound, ignoring any effects of the seed cavity. This would matter more for winter squash. Then again, winter squash seeds are fairly calorie dense in their own right, so they should still come out ahead.

Could this strategy be used because given a less then optimal year, the summer squash would at least produce something and the winter squash would't? A classic example of a low yielding but resilient crop alongside a high yielding but less resilient one?
Do you have any indigenous tribal members near you that you could ask?

Our farm is adjacent to tribal land, and we know a number of tribal members here, but this tribe was not involved with growing crops before the colonial era. Some of them are very active today with gardening, but it is something they learned more from the Cooperative Extension Office.
(9 likes, 1 apple)
 

Gilbert Fritz wrote:why would have they specially planted "summer" types and put a lot of work into drying them?



The pepo species is typically eaten as a summer squash. They only store for a couple months before they get too nasty tasting to want to eat. It would make sense to dehydrate them to extend the time that they are palatable. Maxima winter squash might store for about 3 to 5 months. And moschata winter squash often store well for 6 months to a year. A dehydrated summer squash will store for years.

An immature squash is much easier to slice than a mature squash. A mature maxima squash often has a skin that is almost woody.

Growing 3 to 5 species of squash with different culinary traits, growth patterns, and different susceptibilities to bugs, weather, and diseases would minimize the possibility of complete failure of all squash species. So I speculate that each different species was good for a different kind of eating, just like they are today. And that growing multiple species that are used in different ways made the food system more reliable.
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I wonder if Carol might have been referring specifically to the squash section of "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden".

The presumably pepo (edit I was incorrect in my presumption) Hidatsa squash landrace described in the book was actually multiple purpose and provided at least 5 food products. Squash blossoms, immature immediate eating squash, immature dried squash, winter squash, and squash seeds.

The tribe moved to a winter home not long after squash harvest. The remaining Winter squash weren't taken with but left in caches.

I grew the similar landrace Mandan pepo squash from Sandhill this year and let them all mature for seed. Ate the first one a few days ago as a mature squash. Tasted alot like acorn squash but was a bit thin fleshed. They don't perfectly match the description of the Hidatsa landrace. I don't know if that landrace is extant. (Edit: if they were Maxima their are maxima squash still attributed to the three tribes of the upper Missouri by the names of Arikara, Hidatsa, And Knife River).
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Mandan squash I picked today
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(5 likes, 1 apple)
First of all, there is no one answer to your question. A nation of people are defined, in part, by having a common "governance" system, culture, food, language, housing, "religious" practice, customs, etc. By some estimates there were 500 nations of people across what later became known as the Americas. Those peoples and nations were as different from each other as the people of Norway are different from Moroccans. And their nations stretched over a much wider area than Europe/N. Africa covers. So, to the question of why did "Indian" people do something, ...there are lots of answers.

But, one answer is that when there are no stores where any needed item can be picked up at a moments notice, and each person, family, band, tribe, nation is responsible for their own survival, including food, shelter, warmth, clothing and such, then you spend a whole lot of time preparing for the future. If you have to produce and preserve all your own food, then you better not count on any one crop or storage method to feed you for a whole year until that one crop comes in again. Plus, if you are producing all your own food, variety in how it is stored, how it tastes, what nutritional value it has, and the timing of when you pick, plant, harvest, store all have meaning. It's not really a question of what crop produces the most "calories". Its more a question of how many calories can I produce by any method and on any given day, so we can eat all year (and perhaps the following year if some disaster hurts the next years food possibilities).
Gilbert Wilson thought the squash Buffalo Bird Woman described was a maxima.

https://books.google.com/books?id=QQyeAwAAQBAJ&pg=PT4&lpg=PT4&dq=hidatsa+ethnobotany&source=bl&ots=2aC4rI0Ohn&sig=6lDSAnzXzynhI9LjDp8KlxjyM4g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiql466lpLWAhVpx1QKHWFNCdgQ6AEIOjAF#v=snippet&q=hidatsa%20squash&f=false

I already have a maxima Hidatsa squash it doesn't have the full landrace diversity described though. Lovely winter squash- will have to try it as a summer squash.
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Here's a squash photo from Buffalo Bird Woman's book. It looks to me, like she might have been growing 4 species of squash all jumbled together. Which would be conducive to making inter-species hybrids from time to time. I've marked on a photo what looks to me like typical leaves of the commonly grown squash species.

Hidatsa-Indian-woman-hoeing-squash-with-a-bone-hoe-edited.jpg
Hidatsa woman hoeing squash. Four species growing together?
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Hidatsa-Indian-woman-hoeing-squash-with-a-bone-hoe.jpg
Hidatsa woman hoeing squash
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(2 likes)
Some folks had hones for winter use and summer use making it difficult to grow crops all year round -dried pumpkins is so much easier to move
I'm sure that protecting against crop failure also had something to do with it.  It was better to be over provisioned in case of hard times, than under provisioned, so preserving surplus from one season to the next would have been critical.
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Dried squash, besides being lighter and easier to transport, also take up way less space when stored. Maybe easier to protect from vermin, especially if you don't have ideal storage conditions? It would have been a challenge to provide a long-term, 50-60*F, dry storage spot for squash, even if rodents weren't a problem, but dehydrated squash will keep easily much longer if kept dry. BTW, we dehydrate the zucchini Costata Romanesco and it tastes good in soups and tomato sauces. A nice change of pace and makes for a more interesting table during Minnesota winters. And in our garden this zuke variety probably outproduces the winter squash in terms of pounds/square feet over the course of the summer and our resident rodent population leaves them alone, preferring some of the other winter squash types.
(2 likes, 1 apple)
Picked some squash today. Hidatsa, Hidatsa crossed with Rio Lucio, Lofthouse squash, and a couple others like a little pile of zucchini colored lofthouse moschatas and a squash I think is a cross with a buttercup.

Plus a few more squash pictures.
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Today's Haul
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Big one and some buttercups
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Last weeks haul
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Lofthouse mospermia 1
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(1 like, 4 apples)
 

William Schlegel wrote:a little pile of zucchini colored lofthouse moschatas and a squash I think is a cross with a buttercup.



The green skinned trait came into my moschata squash landrace from Long-of-Naples and Black Futsu.  Here's a photo of Long of Naples.


My buttercup squash originated from Burgess Buttercup. The orange stripes came into my buttercup landrace from Red Kuri, and/or Turk's Turban.


I have been working on adding light gray and pink to my buttercup landrace. This year the new population is finally at the right phenotype. I'm merging the two populations into a single landrace. Don't have a current photo, but here's what some of the family looked like a couple of years ago.

(2 likes)
 

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Here's a squash photo from Buffalo Bird Woman's book. It looks to me, like she might have been growing 4 species of squash all jumbled together. Which would be conducive to making inter-species hybrids from time to time. I've marked on a photo what looks to me like typical leaves of the commonly grown squash species.



Things were a bit muddled already at the time of the book. My copy has the following caption for this photo "Sioux Woman, Goodbird's wife, hoeing squash to demonstrate the use of a bone hoe, 1912 (photographed by Gilbert Wilson; Minnesota Historical Society 9448-A)"

So according to the introduction Like A Fishhook village was broken up and allotments began in 1885-1888

Gilbert Wilson first visited in 1906

Goodbird was Buffalo Bird Woman's son so this is Goodbird's wife hoeing to demonstrate an at the time old fashioned bone hoe.

In the squash section of the book there is a passage with the heading "Squashes, Present Seed" where buffalo bird woman says that she grew the squash up until four years ago in Goodbird's garden but stopped because his family wasn't eating them. Then she saved some seed from a volunteer and gave that seed to Gilbert.

In chapter XII Since White Men Came she mentions the government issuing them seeds of "big squashes". Which she deemed inferior.

However it's not clear which the squash in the picture could have been in 1912 and where it originated. Gilbert published the account first in 1917 his research was conducted from 1906 to 1918, a 12 year period- 11 if we take off the year after publication. So depending on when she stopped growing the historic squash this squash in the photo could be the historic squash, the descendent of a single volunteer, or a squash / squashes from the government or other modern (at the time) source.

Extant squashes Maxima "Arikara, Hidatsa, knife river" and pepo squash "Mandan" are attributed to the three tribes of the upper Missouri.

I think I read somewhere that acorn and patty pan might have come from their genetics as well.



(2 likes)
At a cob oven workshop last weekend, I met someone that worked in restoring Native American food systems.  I was commenting that I get an urge to be nomadic sometimes, but I just bought property and working on a permaculture food forest system, and the two thoughts seemed to be at odds with each other.  He told me that the Native Americans in the northern plains were nomadic but they had gardens along their migration path.   Life before recorded deeds and individual land ownership.  This is just a thought connection I got while reading this thread and maybe has nothing to do with the reality, but maybe the summer squash was what they were able to grow in a short time period before they moved to their next plot?  They were living Holistic Management for themselves I guess.
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It might have been quicker to dry summer, as less dense solids in them. Also, easier to work with. I say this because cutting a 30-pound winter can be kind of a samurai/sumo experience. I had some whopper volunteers one year. It was a job to cut them to use-size.
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Mary Saunders wrote:It might have been quicker to dry summer, as less dense solids in them. Also, easier to work with. I say this because cutting a 30-pound winter can be kind of a samurai/sumo experience. I had some whopper volunteers one year. It was a job to cut them to use-size.



I bet it had more to do with the time of year and opportunity. The squash were multipurpose. Drying them as summer squash in summer time worked best for that storage method because the rain free hot sunny days good for sun drying fall in the summer. It sounds like they moved in the winter and the winter squash often went bad either because they froze in the lodge or because of poor cache construction. I say this while I wonder where to store a third pickup load of winter squash! Also they are heavy!
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Third load
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I don't know what makes this : dried young summer squashes get a mushroom flavour that mature winter squash do not have.

-> Different taste and maybe different nutrition?

I like the 1st arguments that you know what you have now and cannot secure that next crop will succeed or fail. You need some security when you rely little on others and stores...
Thanks for all the discussion everyone! It is fascinating.
Squash hybridize like crazy.  I think there are 4 groups.  People who grow seeds only grow one member of each group in a season unless they have quarantine systems in place (row cover, greenhouse....)

If growing winter squash I can see preference for breeds that are small.  While breaking open any winter squash is tough when raw, they are a lot easier to deal with cooked.  So having a size that allowed you to cook it whole would make sense.

My own experience with winter squash is that storing whole squash in humid root cellar at 35-40F works until about February, when they go soft and moldy. Now most of the natives that did the squash and corn routine lived in a warmer climate.  Could be that winter squash don't keep well.

In either case my bet is that they grew multiple types of squash, drying some for late winter, keeping some for fall, and eating some off the vine.
Im not sure about the idea of the small squash being more user friendly.  Indigenous cooking methods and lifestyle/culture differ from ours considerably.  While smaller squash might seem more user friendly to the modern kitchen/household, when pit baking and when serving a larger group at a summer camp location there might be some efficiency towards large squash.  It certainly immediately came to mind that food security was the prime concern... followed directly by easy to dry, easy to store, easy to carry. Variety of course... is the spice of life.... so there's also that. A bunch of dried or fresh squash in the skin bag suspended over the fire would go a long way towards sweetening up the (often bitter) roots and greens being stewed for the evening meal.
To my knowledge All squash in the Cucurbita pepo/maxima/moshata/mixta-agrosperma group have Native American origins. I suspect different tribes had different life ways and methods of squash use and storage. The Hidatsa life way and squash size preferences are pretty well documented in "Buffalo Bird Woman's garden". For the Hidatsa Buffalo bird woman straight up said they had trouble with the squash freezing and going bad and that they moved in winter and didn't bring the winter squash and put it in a cache instead. If you look at the southwest tribes squash diversity available from native seed search in Tucson you see way more diversity in size. I think that just shows that a more southerly tribe which lived in permanent structures could store winter squash inside better.

 

Gilbert Fritz wrote:In one of Carol Deppe's books, she mentioned that various groups of Native Americans would dry summer (immature) squash for the winter. It sounds like they put quite a bit of effort into this; it was not a sideline. They also grew winter squash for winter storage, and would dry the ones that didn't make it all the way to maturity.

Now, I can see growing summer squash to fill the hungry gap sooner. And drying leftovers and immature winter squash is also easy to get. But why would have they specially planted "summer" types and put a lot of work into drying them? Given hypothetical ideal conditions, a hundred square feet of summer squash can produce 36,100 calories in a summer, and a hundred square feet of winter squash can produce 63,350 calories in a summer. And those winter squash don't need the extra work of slicing and drying.

Now, it is true that I just took the hypothetical weight of squash produced and multiplied by calories per pound, ignoring any effects of the seed cavity. This would matter more for winter squash. Then again, winter squash seeds are fairly calorie dense in their own right, so they should still come out ahead.

Could this strategy be used because given a less then optimal year, the summer squash would at least produce something and the winter squash would't? A classic example of a low yielding but resilient crop alongside a high yielding but less resilient one?



What is grown depends on location first, this included soil types and moisture from father sky.
If you are talking about southern Nations, then they will grow different varieties than north eastern Nations, the western Nations also would grow different varieties,  etc..
Each region would plant those items that would nourish them the longest period of time each year.

I will say that Kola Lofthouse is most likely correct. The Nations always plant in groups of plants that will help support the others in the group.

I am of the Plains Nation called Nakota (one of the Sioux nations), we didn't plant until the hard times came and we ended up forced to reservations.

Redhawk
 

S. G. Botsford wrote:Squash hybridize like crazy.  I think there are 4 groups.  People who grow seeds only grow one member of each group in a season unless they have quarantine systems in place (row cover, greenhouse....)

If growing winter squash I can see preference for breeds that are small.  While breaking open any winter squash is tough when raw, they are a lot easier to deal with cooked.  So having a size that allowed you to cook it whole would make sense.

My own experience with winter squash is that storing whole squash in humid root cellar at 35-40F works until about February, when they go soft and moldy. Now most of the natives that did the squash and corn routine lived in a warmer climate.  Could be that winter squash don't keep well.

In either case my bet is that they grew multiple types of squash, drying some for late winter, keeping some for fall, and eating some off the vine.



How do you achieve a humid root cellar at 35 F?  My basement (cinder block walls in Southern New Hampshire) is still 65 F during squash harvest time (August-September)
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So, I am currently in my 2nd year raising veggies on the edge of the Rocky Rain Shadow.  the answer to this question strikes me as being relatively straightforward to someone who has spent north of 40 years living  300 or fewer miles from Denver East of the Rockies. 

SEVERE WEATHER

If you've ever driven through the aftermath of a good ol' fashion Kansas Hailstorm (I presume we're not the only ones that have them) it's not hard to see why diversified crops are important.  Just in the past two years, my county n the KS/CO state line has had two massive hailstorms.  The one in 2016 hit in September, which is when pumpkins start to turn and thicken their walls.  Reported median size was quarter to golf ball size, and every melon/squash in sight exploded.  This year, it wasn't as bad in this end of the county, but a friend who has about 2 acres of produce on the east edge of the county reported some grapefruit sized stones, and told me a few weeks ago when they cut their corn they had to haul 2 deer and 5-6 WHEELBARROW loads of birds out of a single field. 

Summer squash are quick from bloom to harvest.  Winter squash are not.  Out here on the Plains, prior to the advent of Doppler Radar and other forms of modern meteorology, every time a thundstorm started building it was a crap shoot whether or not it was going to bring hail, and whether or not it was going to pass overhead (in western Kansas, a dryline refers to the point  where somebody switched off the rain... driving along and having full ditches on one side of the road while not a drop of rain hit the actual road is not unheard of.)

Thus a group of agrarians could get fresh veggies during the summer, dry some for later as their surpluses dictate (everybody knows how hard it is to give away zucchini by the end of the season,) and roll the dice to see if the winter squash survive long enough to harvest properly. 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:In one of Carol Deppe's books, she mentioned that various groups of Native Americans would dry summer (immature) squash for the winter. It sounds like they put quite a bit of effort into this; it was not a sideline. They also grew winter squash for winter storage, and would dry the ones that didn't make it all the way to maturity.

Now, I can see growing summer squash to fill the hungry gap sooner. And drying leftovers and immature winter squash is also easy to get. But why would have they specially planted "summer" types and put a lot of work into drying them? Given hypothetical ideal conditions, a hundred square feet of summer squash can produce 36,100 calories in a summer, and a hundred square feet of winter squash can produce 63,350 calories in a summer. And those winter squash don't need the extra work of slicing and drying.

Now, it is true that I just took the hypothetical weight of squash produced and multiplied by calories per pound, ignoring any effects of the seed cavity. This would matter more for winter squash. Then again, winter squash seeds are fairly calorie dense in their own right, so they should still come out ahead.

Could this strategy be used because given a less then optimal year, the summer squash would at least produce something and the winter squash would't? A classic example of a low yielding but resilient crop alongside a high yielding but less resilient one?



The Navaho, Hopi, Cherokee, Choctaw, and the other southern tribes did most of the farming. Their tribal lands and relative planted feet allowed them and even dictated that they grow most of the foods they ate, hunting for these nations was secondary to the farming.
Many of the nomadic tribes would trade meat and other items with these nations, thus getting staple food stuffs for their people. It was not unusual to find hunters with bows made of lemon or osage orange wood in areas where these trees did not grow, they acquired them through trades with other tribes.
All the nations (prior to European invasion and subsequent displacement) had a thriving trade network setup and so you could find sea shell beads far inland, eastern flint arrow heads, spear points, scrapers, knives, as far west as the pacific ocean nations.

Dried  beans, squashes, and other food stuffs were not just for the tribe that grew them, they were also used for trading and for gifts.  Seeds were stored for replanting and some were toasted and eaten.
Summer squashes tend to produce over a longer period of time and they tend to produce more than the winter varieties they had access to. This might be one reason, another possibility would be summer squashes are easier to dry and store long term plus these would then travel better.
All the farming nations planted many different crops together, they learned by observation which plants did the best with certain other plants and that is how the "native method" such as that of the three sisters evolved. Each type of plant has other plants that can thrive along side, sometimes one set up will keep pest bugs off other plant sets. Others share different nutritional needs and so can occupy the same soil to each others benefit.

Redhawk
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ... richsoil.com/wd-gardening.jsp


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