Squash—a category of plant that includes pumpkins—can truly take over your garden during the growing season and your kitchen and pantry at harvest time. A mainstay of southwestern farming traditions, it pays many dividends for the home gardener.
Squash produced two crops, and several types of food, for the Native farmer. Gardeners harvested some of the small, soft-skinned immature fruit to prepare as “summer squash.” They left the rest of the fruit to grow into large “winter squash,” which produces plentiful, sweet flesh. The southwestern varieties have tough rinds and can keep for several months without refrigeration. Some Native farmers stored squash in piles covered with cornstalks, while others kept them in specially constructed storehouses built of arrowweed, willow, and cornstalks. Farmers cut squash into long strips or chips and dried them in the sun like beef jerky. The dried flesh could be stored almost indefinitely. Roasted squash seeds also stored well, though because the seeds made such a delicious snack, they were not likely to last long! Some Native cooks ground squash seeds with other oilseeds, condiments, and fruit to make a sauce, mole pipiáen, which is served today in Mexican cuisine.
The beautiful, large squash flowers are also a delicious vegetable. Gardeners collect male blossoms in particular, which they might fry with other vegetables or add to soups and stews. (Kevin Dahl, Native Harvest: Authentic Southwestern Gardening pp 21-22)
Personally, I’m quite excited about the prospect of harvesting my own squash blossoms. I hear they’re quite a delicacy when fried, but I’ve never tasted them before—only worn them in the form of stylized silver on the occasional borrowed necklace.