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Agricultural News

This week's Ag in the Classroom with Pumpkins, Squash and Other Cucurbits!

Fri, 18 Sep 2020 10:04:43 CDT

This week's Ag in the Classroom with Pumpkins, Squash and Other Cucurbits! Whether your kids are doing blended learning, online learning, or back in school, its always nice to have a few extra resources and fun things to do as a family! Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom has come up with some excellent daily activities you can do with your kids and family.

For this week's Ag in the Classroom we are celebrating Pumpkins, Squash and Other Cucurbits!

Squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers are all part of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd, family. They belong to the group of vegetables known as cucurbits. Species of cucurbits are usually monoecious, with separate pollen-bearing (staminate) male flowers and seed-bearing (pistillate) female flowers on the same plant. Cucurbits were among the foods first cultivated by ancient farmers in much of what is now the US. Archaeologists believe ancient people farming along river banks may have cultivated some form of squash, sunflowers and other seed plants even before they learned to cultivate maize (corn).

After maize was introduced, farmers continued to grow squash with maize and beans, in the “three sisters” system. Cucurbits are still a staple in Oklahoma gardens and in Oklahoma agriculture. Watermelons and pumpkins are important Oklahoma field crops, and farmer’s markets display a wonderful variety of squashes and cucumbers throughout the growing season.

Squash is usually divided into two categories—summer and winter. Summer squashes are harvested and eaten while their skin is still tender. Winter squash grows a thick skin, which helps it keep longer. The term “winter squash” dates back to a time when refrigeration and cross-country transportation was not as readily available as it is now. “Good keepers” became known as winter vegetables if they would “keep” until December. Winter squash have hard, thick skins and will keep for months if stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. The best tasting winter squash is available in early fall.

Acorn squash should be almost solid dark green. The best butternut squash has a thick neck and small round base. Ornamental squash, also plentiful during the holiday season, is edible but normally not as flavorful as acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash. The most common summer squashes are scallop, or pattypan, constricted neck and zucchini. Pattypan is round and flattened, like a plate with scalloped edges. It is usually white. Constricted neck squash is thinner at the stem end than the blossom end, and is classified
as either “crookneck” or “straightneck.” It is usually yellow. Zucchini squash is cylindrical to clubshaped and is usually green. Zucchini can grow quickly to the size of a baseball bat if not picked frequently. Zucchini and other summer squash taste best when picked between five and eight inches long. One zucchini plant can produce as many as 30 zukes per plant. Zucchini is so prolific in gardens that some people in Pennsylvania have designated an official “Sneak a Zucchini onto your Neighbor’s Porch” night (August 8).

The world’s largest fruits belong to the cucurbit family. Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds. According to Cucurbits, the official newsletter of the World Pumpkin Confederation, a 2005 record-breaking pumpkin weighed in at 1,469 pounds, and a giant squash tipped the scales at just over 962 pounds (436 kg).

The tradition of carving pumpkins at Halloween started with the Irish, but the original jack-o-lanterns were made from turnips. When the Irish immigrated to the U.S., they found pumpkins a plenty, and they were much easier to carve than turnips. • The pumpkin is one of only a few foods we still eat today that is native to North America. American Indians used them as food and medicine. Dried pumpkin shells served as bowls or containers for storing grains and seeds. The Indians also flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats from them. • Pumpkins were a main part of the Pilgrims’ daily diet because they would keep for several months, if left uncut and stored in a cool, dry place. • Colonists made the first pumpkin pies by slicing off pumpkin tops, removing the seeds, filling the insides with milk, spices and honey, then baking it all in hot ashes.

Students will learn about varieties of Pumpkins, corn and squash, Use zucchini or cucumber for practice in fractions. (Cut into halves, fourths, etc.) Make sure students wash their hands and use clean cutting utensils. Eat as a nutritious raw snack, with or without dip, and even learn how to grow summer squash!

To read more about Pumpkins and Squash, click HERE for all the learning resources from Ag in the Classroom. And.. Watch the super cool video from NPR posted on an episode of SKUNK BEAR..

Teachers, order your FREE resources by following this link!

And don't forget, Ag in the Classroom offers daily activities to do with your kiddos on their website, and their facebook page.



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