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Eye on Life Magazine is a Lifestyle and Literary Magazine.  Enjoy articles on gardening, kitchen cooking, poetry, vintage decor, and more.

Squash Blossom Necklace In Your Squash Blossom Garden

Two Desperate Men And Their Squash Blossoms

It was a confusing proposal. On the day that he asked her to marry him, with tear filled eyes, he promised a better life, a ring, and most important of all (in his mind), the lost squash blossom necklace, that had supposedly once belonged to none other than Napoleon’s Josephine. It was hers, if only she agreed to marry him.  Holding it in her hand, she did not see anything unique about the silver and turquoise necklace. It was no different than many that she’d seen in her western state childhood. Still, he seemed so sincere. So, she could not do anything but thank him, as who was she to burst his bubble of generosity?

Squash Blossom NecklaceAfter years of broken and empty promises, it was that squash blossom necklace, that turned out to be the biggest myth of all in their marriage-of-sorts. The poor delusional man was thinking that a southwest jewelry Squash Blossom necklace had somehow made its way back to France in the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. He’d bought it in France and paid dearly for someone’s lie. It was an expensive lesson in cheap imitations, mockingly befitting the title he held in her mind, the King of Cheapskates. Second only to the time, he bought a hot box of bricks in bubble wrap, believing ostensibly he’d bought a new in-the- box VCR. Even geniuses get fooled.  That’s what you get when you want something grand for nothing.

Like many exposed to the native American Squash Blossom necklaces, few know, and he certainly didn’t know — that the antique design of a “squash blossom” predates white man’s appearance on this continent. In fact, the design in jewelry didn’t even exist prior to 1880 — so the myth of Josephine’s squash blossom necklace, certainly is mired in mystery and deception.  Yes, historically there was a story about a lost turquoise necklace (actually more than one) that was gifted to Josephine by Napoleon. However, it was not the silver and turquoise squash blossom design of America, but rather a turquoise and gold necklace from Egypt.

Squash Blossom Necklace History

Squash Blossom - Photographer: Dennis Wood

Squash Blossom - Photographer: Dennis Wood

Where the squash blossom design artistically comes into place, isn’t because of the flowers of the American plant species Cucurbita, also known as a squash — it comes from the creativeness of the Egyptian culture. Ancient Egyptians loved and treasured the turquoise stone. Even their soldiers went to Sinai to guard turquoise mines. King Tut’s tomb held large amounts of this stone, believed to have mystical qualities of health, friendship, and the ability to ward off the “evil eye.”

Pomegranate BlossomsThe necklace Napoleon supposedly brought from Egypt for Josephine was however, based on the pomegranate blossom. He desperately wanted an heir and the pomegranate was associated with fertility and wealth. The blossom was well-known in Egyptian culture, it even showed up in paintings and decorative carvings.

The Naja On the Southwest Jewelry

Well, if you’ve ever owned or seen a Native American Squash Blossom necklace, you’ll notice a crescent shaped appendage at the bottom of the necklace in most designs. It’s called the “naja.”  It came from the same continent as Egypt and originated with the Moors and was a symbol often found on their beloved horse’s bridles. As shiny object befitting the graceful and eloquent movement of the spirited horse, this was a popular design.

Naja Crescent Necklace

Naja Crescent Necklace

Later in history, this same design started showing up in Spain where the Moor influence was great. Soon, the pomegranate blossom designs and the naja appeared on the decorative buttons of the time. From them, the Conquistadors showed up in Mexico with those same buttons. The natives in Mexico were fascinated by them and the design, which resembled the familiar native squash blossoms.

Interestingly, the squash blossom, like the pomegranate blossom, was also thought to be a symbol of fertility and wealth to the native peoples who soon adopted the design. It started emerging in many tribes, especially in the Pueblo and Navajo tribes around 1850.  The squash blossom necklaces that we see today originated with the Navajo, who were expert silversmiths, then later embraced by the Zuni who added the turquoise stones.

Today, that necklace from so long ago, sits inside a jewelry box. I don’t think much on it or the man who gave it to me, but I do think a lot about its symbolism and the blossoms of flowers like the squash and the pomegranate. They say to own one of those necklaces (and I’m not talking about Josephine’s) is to link back in time to past lives and loves, and to celebrate beauty and a deeper meaning.

Personally, I celebrate the beauty of the squash (and pomegranate) blossoms in a whole new-old way — by stuffing them and cooking them. It’s a whole lot sweeter than the coldness of stone and metal and unfulfilled promises.

Note: There is another good reason to stuff and sauté squash blossoms — by picking off a portion of the blossoms — you’ll have bigger and better squash fruit remaining on the vine.

Squash Blossom - Photographer: Dennis Wood

Squash Blossom - Photographer: Dennis Wood

Growing Squash In Southern Climates

Here in Florida, the most popular summer squash varieties are:

  • Straightneck
  • Crookneck
  • Bush Scallop
  • Zucchini

Summer squash grows rapidly from seed planted for the warm seasons and is used when immature. These squashes are not generally used to store for long use during the winter.  Equally as popular, are our winter squash varieties, the most popular being:

  • Table Queen (Acorn)
  • Butternut
  • Calabaza
  • Cuban Winter Squash (very popular in Dade County)
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Hubbard
  • Banana

Both Hubbard and Banana squash are often grown to weigh more than twenty pounds by some gardeners.   Also in Florida, and throughout the South, squash can have big problems with dropping of blossoms and small fruit. Usually, this problem is compounded by insufficient bee activity for pollination, or to a common fruit rot (Choanephora).  Historically, it’s important to understand that while other plants have migrated with Europeans — varieties of squash migrated for more than ten thousand documented years across the Americas, from the tip of South America, all the way north to the land of the Canadian indigenous peoples.  These members of the Cucurbitaceae plant family have more than eight hundred and twenty-five different species. This plant family includes all edible gourds, including the:

  • Cucumber
  • Watermelons
  • Musk Melons
  • Squash
  • Pumpkins

They’ve been around as a major food source for native people that they are and always have been an economically important food plant species.  If you want to have a lot of fun, try some of the varieties of squash that can be found on the Native Seed Search website. Squash varieties such as those named below can open up new culinary delights to your friends and family:

  • Maxima
  • Pepo
  • Moschata
  • Vera Cruz Pepita
  • Silver Edged

How To Cook Squash Blossoms

Tante Julienne’s Fried Squash Blossom Recipe

This squash blossom recipe is adapted from an old recipe, dating back to around the 1930s, found in the handwritten cookbook of a Cajun great aunt. She used lard instead of the olive oil, regular table salt, ice water instead of sparkling water, and butter to sauté them in. I still use butter occasionally, against my cardiologist’s wise advice.

Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 3 cups small diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons Asiago cheese at room temperature (a modern family member addition to the original recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green peppers (can and do substitute other favorite peppers)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper very finely chopped
  • 12 male squash blossoms with stems stems chopped off at about one inch

Ingredients for batter and frying:

  • Vegetable oil (preferably canola or grape seed) Note: Tastes better in butter.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Goya Adobo All Purpose Seasoning
  • 1 cup chilled sparkling water
  • Serve hot and immediately
  • Note: We dip in home-made cilantro based salsas.

Fun Squash Fact

From the native word, askutasquash, meaning a green thing eaten raw, out of the Narragansett (Wampanoag) language, we Americans first adopted the name “squash.” The word first emerged in print, in Roger Williams 1643 book, A Key Into the Language of AmericaAs for the natives in this country, similar words were found throughout the Algonquian people’s vocabulary.

If You’d Like To Know More About Growing Squash, Squash Recipes, or Squash Blossom Necklaces!