Monday, October 31, 2016

On Jack O Lanterns and squashes


This was a diatribe against a medievalist's "scholar" post, who conflated pumpkins, New World squashes with old world species.
The author also lumped the Renaissance with the Medieval world. We (imperially speaking) came undone. These are from my notes to Medievalist.net. I had reposted some of my comments on Facebook. I always meant to make a blog of it, but never did, so this is a placeholder.

I wrote: Did something get lost in translation? We don't call cucumbers squashes. Citrullus was the other form eaten. Melons are not called squashes. Lagenaria was mostly inedible (gourd, clalbash). The word cucurbita means "gourd".


 Most squash as we know them, came from the New World. Note the country of origin in the list below.
"squash, pumpkin, or gourd depending on species, variety, and local parlance,[a] and for their seeds. First cultivated in the Americas before being brought to Europe by returning explorers after their discovery of the New World, plants in the genus Cucurbita are important sources of human food and oil....Cucurbita fruits have played a role in human culture for at least 2,000 years. They are often represented in Moche ceramics from Peru. After Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World, paintings of squashes started to appear in Europe early in the sixteenth century. " —Cucurbita- Wiki
The genus Cucumis in the Cucurbitaceae family, including some gourds, do not include New World squashes. Most gourds are inedible, and you can't eat a loofah! Some gourds (calabashes), and several melons were native to the Old World.
Cucurbita – squash, pumpkin, zucchini, some gourds
Lagenaria – mostly inedible gourds
Citrullus – watermelon (C. lanatus, C. colocynthis) and others
Cucumis – cucumber (C. sativus), various melons
Luffa – the common name is also luffa, sometimes spelled loofah (when fully ripened, two species of this fibrous fruit are the source of the loofah scrubbing sponge)
"Six cucurbit crops are represented in 23 Byzantine-era mosaics from Israel, these being round melons (Cucumis melo), watermelons (Citrullus lanatus), sponge gourds (Luffa aegyptiaca), snake melons (faqqous, Cucumis melo Flexuosus Group), adzhur melons (Cucumis melo Adzhur Group), and bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria). Cucurbits are represented in 23 of the 134 mosaics containing images of crop plants." —Cucurbitaceae - Wikipedia
The Cucurbits of Mediterranean Antiquity: Identification of Taxa from Ancient Images and Descriptions
"By ancient times, long-fruited forms of Cucumis melo (melon) and Lagenaria siceraria (bottle gourd) were selected, cultivated and used as vegetables around the Mediterranean and, in addition, bottle-shaped fruits of L. siceraria were employed as vessels. Citrullus lanatus (watermelons) and round-fruited forms of Cucumis melo (melons) were also consumed, but less commonly. A number of cucurbit species, including Bryonia alba, B. dioica, Citrullus colocynthis and Ecballium elaterium, were employed for medicinal purposes. No unequivocal evidence was found to suggest the presence of Cucumis sativus (cucumber) in the Mediterranean area during this era. The cucumis of Columella and Pliny was not cucumber, as commonly translated, but Cucumis melo subsp. melo Flexuosus Group (snake melon or vegetable melon).
Food in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diet of Early Peoples
"The cucumber was much cultivated in Egypt in Pliny's day and known in Early ... Apicius cooked them with brains, cumin, honey, celery seed, liquamen and oil, ... "


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