What is Spaghetti Squash All About? And Where Did it Come From? Find Out Here

A Spaghetti Squash

Definition and Description

There are actually three distinct plants, each of which are sometimes called spaghetti squash. They are:

The original spaghetti squash – This is a squash of the cucurbita pepo linnaeus species. It is rounded and oblong in shape, measuring as much as 12 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. When ripe, it is typically light yellow in color and weighs around 5 pounds. It is also variously called vegetable spaghetti, (the more common term for it in the UK), noodle squash, vegetable marrow, squaghetti, and mandarin squash. The “spaghetti” name comes from the fact that when it is cooked, the flesh of the vegetable is long and stringy in appearance, like spaghetti. It rose to popularity in the US and Europe during the 1970’sp>

Orangetti – This is a more recent hybrid of the original spaghetti plant. It was developed in Israel by Harry Paris, in the year 1986. Orangetti has the same general oblong shape as the original, but a more distinctive orange color. True to its name and origin, though, the meat is also long and stringy like spaghetti when cooked. Not surprisingly, orangetti has a high carotene content. And some say a sweeter flavor. The most popular variety today (though not necessarily the best tasting), is called “hasta la pasta” and is available in seed form from the Burpee Seed Company.

The spaghetti gourd – This is an edible Italian gourd of the lagenaria siceraria species. It is also variously called cucuzzi gourd, cucuzzi squash, or simply cucuzzi. But it is also sometimes called spaghetti squash, which can make things confusing. It is generally long, thin, and slightly curved in shape, and much more greenish in color. Its tender meat is not particularly stringy at all when cooked. Rather, it reportedly has the spaghetti nickname because it pairs well with the pasta in dishes. It is generally sliced and either fried or steamed, much like zucchini or similar squashes.


Origin and History

The word “squash” is of Native American Indian origin. And the squash plant is generally known to be native to North and Central America from ancient times (along with maize and beans). So it is entirely reasonable for most people to think that spaghetti squash originated in North America. However, it was actually developed in Manchuria, China during the 1890’s. We are not sure when or how squash was first introduced to China. But we do know that by the 1850’s, the Chinese were growing and using some varieties of squash for fodder. Perhaps the “spaghetti” variety was developed in an effort to come up with a variety that was easier to grow.

So, how did this Chinese squash make its way to America? You will never guess! (No, it wasn’t via Marco Polo.) In the 1930’s, the Sakata Seed Company, a Japanese firm, was looking around for new types of plants to promote, and came upon the Chinese squash. They developed an improved strain and introduced it in seed form around the world. The Burpee seed company in the US first picked up and marketed Sakata “vegetable spaghetti” seed (as it was then called) in 1936.

While it found some limited acceptance in rural family gardens, vegetable spaghetti was not exactly an instant American hit. In fact it was still pretty much unknown in urban America up until the World War II era. During the war, however, some popular household staple foods began to be in short supply. In that environment, vegetable spaghetti grew in popularity, as a substitute for Italian spaghetti noodles that could be grown at home, in one’s “victory garden.” After the war, however, when food shortages were no longer an issue in the US, vegetable spaghetti once again faded into obscurity. It was scarcely heard from again until around the 1960’s, when it was reborn in California as “spaghetti squash.” Frieda Caplan’s (then) young specialty produce company in Los Angeles---the one that made such a success out of the newly dubbed “kiwi fruit”---is popularly credited with making spaghetti squash a marketing success in the US.

At first spaghetti squash’s popularity spread among the hippie counterculture, where it was touted as a healthy “natural” alternative to “processed” food. But as for many other things popularized by hippies, it eventually went mainstream. By the 1980’s, spaghetti squash had become fairly well known and common throughout the US. With the further development of the “orangetti” version in the 1980’s, its popularity grew even further, due to the more appealing look and taste. Today both the original and orangetti versions of the squash continue to have a steady following, particularly among vegetarians. But also among dieters—since it is such a low calorie, low carb food.


Selecting and Cooking Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is fairly easy to grow, as are most squashes. However, it is also available year round in most large supermarkets these days. When selecting spaghetti squash at the market, look for hard, dense pieces with no soft spots. Also look for uniformity of color with no green in it (either pale yellow or orange—depending on variety).

Spaghetti squash is generally either boiled whole until tender (slightly perforate the outer surface with a fork first for best results), or else cut in half and baked (scoop out seeds before cooking, bake about 40 minutes at 375 degrees). The strands are then broken apart and removed with a fork. It can be eaten with butter and herbs. But many people like to eat it with traditional spaghetti sauces as well.


Spaghetti Squash Nutrition

One of the reasons for the popularity of squash is its nutritional makeup. One cup of the vegetable has:
* Only 42 calories, making it attractive to those watching their calories (just watch the butter or sauce).

* Only 10 grams of carbohydrates (and complex carbs at that), making it attractive to those on low carb or low glycemic index diets.

* 0 grams fat or cholesterol, making it attractive to those watching their cholesterol.

* Only 28 mg of sodium, making it attractive to those watching their sodium intake.

* Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, potassium, and trace amounts of zinc, phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium, and copper—things everybody needs.




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