Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Squash - a Fruit and a Vegetable?

Squash - a Fruit and a Vegetable?

I know that there are many kinds of squash – I eat lots of different varieties – when I came upon one at a farmer’s market that I hadn’t seen before. I was intrigued. It was star-shaped with lovely light green/dark green markings. I brought it home with the intention of cooking it right away but I was waylaid by its charm. So instead, I put it in a basket for a table decoration.

But now it is time to get down to business and eat it. Only what is it that I plan to eat? I found out it is a patty pan squash, a variety that comes in green, yellow, and white. I also found out that, botanically speaking, it is a fruit! Like a tomato, it has seeds, the telltale marking. Yet, in the culinary sense, the way we prepare and eat it, it is a vegetable. So it is both. And what does that mean?

This is as much a philosophical issue as a botanical one. Is it more important to identify something technically or to categorize it functionally? Can something be more than one thing and still maintain its integrity?

I actually like the diverse nature of things. It is inherent in the concept of repurposing, shifting how we use something in one way to use it in another, an important aspect of the current green movement. Food scraps turn into compost. Rainwater is caught and used to water a garden. Wind becomes electricity. In truth, we have been doing it all along, in lots of different ways, without any labels. Vinegar is used in cooking as well for cleaning. A scarf gets turned into a belt A colleague becomes a friend. It makes life creative and interesting.

As for the patty pan, it doesn’t much matter if it is a fruit – I will still prepare it as a vegetable and serve it as such for dinner. In either case, it is food, and I anticipate it being delicious!  

I never realized quite how many varieties of squash there actually are. Check out this site:

Fruit or vegetable? What makes it one or the other?

I wrote a picture book about community and repurposing called The Story Blanket :

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