Amazingly, scientists have found squash seeds (from the genus-species Cucurbita pepo, which includes summer squash) preserved in Mexican caves for more than 10,000 years! It was that long ago when domestication of summer squash originated in Mexico and Central America. Cultivation of squashes (including summer squash) quickly became popular in North, Central, and South America, and Native Americans often referred to squashes as one of the “three sisters” alongside of corn (maize) and beans. Squashes were one of the North American foods that Columbus brought back to Spain from North America, and Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced squashes to many parts of the world.
Commercial production of squash (including summer squash) now takes place on a worldwide basis, and the largest producers of squash including the United States, China, India, and Russia. The Pacific Islands region—including Papua New Guinea, Tonga, French Polynesia, Fiji, Hawaii, and New Zealand—is also an important area for squash production. Total global production of squash measures more than 5 billion metric tons, with over 500,000 acres planted. Florida, California, Georgia and New York are the top squash-growing states in the U.S., producing more than 650 million pounds of squash. The U.S. is also the world’s largest importer of squash, importing nearly 300,000 metric tons per year. (Ninety-five percent of U.S. imported squash comes from Mexico.)