As a squash farmer I am incensed by the allegation that squash, nutritious vegetable that it is, can kill you. Firstly, one must distinguish between Summer Squash and Winter Squash. Secondly, one must consider the number of human beings who rely upon squash for sustenance and for the usefulness of a fine gourd as a potential vessel.

Summer Squash, which I assure you is wholly lacking in tendrils pose risk to neither life nor limb. All Summer Squash are part of the species Cucurbita pepo, a fine variety within the kingdom plantae. Summer Squash is, in fact, far more vulnerable to destruction at the hands of human beings than the converse. The gourds are generally harvested immature due to their relatively short shelf life. The most frequently grown types in the United States are zucchini, yellow straight neck, yellow-crookneck, and white bush scallop (patty pan).

Now, Winter Squash are a whole different can of worms. These are large, spreading plants and the terror of that unstoppable growth could potentially endanger the health and sanity of less stable individuals. Winter Squash also store well, compared with Summer Squash, which means that any potential danger could be much longer lasting. Also, they come in all shapes and colours: endangering those threatened by variety and making identification potentially more problematic.

In order to aid those seeking to avoid the potential hazards of Winter Squash, keep the following in mind. A Winter Squash could actually be any of three different species of Cucurbita. Cucurbita pepo types, such as acorn squash, have hard, angular stems. (A potential source of puncture damage to those not accustomed to the vicious barbs of squash, as one in my profession must be.) The peduncle, or attachment of the stem to the fruit, flares strongly, in a manner that may be threatening to those who have managed to flare only weakly themselves. Leaves are lobed (Not to be confused with lobbed, as with grenades). Cucurbita moschata types, such as butternut squash, have hard, smoothly grooved peduncles flaring at fruit. If that doesn’t sound menacing, I don’t know what does. The hard peduncles conjure disturbing flashbacks to my Hardped uncles (Hardped being a town in my native Scotland). They also have angular stems but leaves are only slightly lobed, thank goodness. Cucurbita maxima types such as Hubbard, Marrow (as in the place to which it chills you), Banana, Turban and Turks have a corky peduncle, fleshy round stem, and rounded, relatively non-lobed leaves.

Now, the question of whether the aforementioned Winter Squash can actually be lethal is not terribly difficult to answer. As I’ve already pointed out, some dangers do exist. It must be recalled, however, that in cases of Winter Squash attack, lethality is almost completely unknown. Winter Squash are smaller than Summer Squash and will generally avoid human beings provided they have ample warning. They are quite capable of concealing themselves under prickly leaves. Recall, also, that they have far more to fear from you than you from them. They are under pressure not only from human consumption, a practice that dates back to the First Nations people of North America, but also from habitat destruction. Every time a city grows, displacing squash farms, the remaining native squash territory is diminished. This increases the likelihood of contact and potential conflict.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation with a Winter Squash, simply follow these instructions. Firstly, don’t move. Squash are completely unable to see animals that are not moving. Also, they have exceptionally poor hearing. Squash are vulnerable to many human weapons, but an open assault is probably a poor alternative. This is a case where avoiding conflict is a strategy that will pay dividends. You will continue unimpeded and sane, unmolested by Winter Squash, and they will continue to replenish the oxygen supply of Earth’s atmosphere as they convert CO2 to O2 through photosynthesis.

If you do get into a fight with a squash, I recommend slowly baking your opponent, preferably with brown sugar and chopped apple spread overtop the flesh of the squash. Alternately, hollow it out and dry it to make a useful vessel for the carrying of various things, such as squash seeds (good both for eating and for sowing in the Earth to add to the squash supply available to future generations). For a more extensive discussion of sustainable harvesting strategies see sustainable yield. For more information on squash, consult your local library or people who you see walking around with sweat bands, racquets, and small black rubber balls. For some reason, many of these people also claim to be experts on squash.

By the way, if you are entirely mad, and believe that the entirety of the above entry was based on fact more than a response to my initial comedic take on the name of this node, perhaps you should check whether you’ve been driven mad by the corky peduncle of a Cucurbita maxima.