Archaeological evidence shows that Cucurbita pepo, which includes squash, has been grown for at least 10,000 years in South America.

Yet pumpkin, as it was known, only began to creep into our recipe books 30 or 40 years ago. Since then, it’s swept the board and not just at Halloween.

The pumpkin was originally valued for its oil-rich seeds, and certainly not its very bitter flesh. But two centuries ago, Scottish writer Patrick Neil mentions a few pumpkin varieties in the US with flesh suitable for pies and soups.

The hard shells were also used as bottles, cups and ladles. I certainly found how nearly impenetrable the skins were a couple of years ago.

After a titanic struggle with the skin, a jet of scalding liquid burst out and left me writhing beneath the cold water tap, loudly cursing my stupidity.

When cooler than molten larva, our modern squash varieties are very tasty.

There’s a much wider selection than 40 years ago, when cookery writers like Jane Grigson included recipes for much larger pumpkins than we now grow.

But not perhaps the 250lb [113kg] monster which Neil described 150 years earlier as fit for cattle or pigs.

There are still large varieties and some, like Turks Turban, are pretty spectacular. But if you’re not looking to win a prize at flower shows you’ll much prefer small fruited types.

We’ve grown my hand grenade, Golden Apple, for many years. Its 30 little tennis ball sized golden fruits keep their delicious flavour well into winter.

Sadly, Golden Apple seed doesn’t seem to be available now, so I’ll have to save my own as I couldn’t bring myself to buy one that’s named ‘Wee B Little’. Which? Gardening recommend ‘Sweet Lightening’

Ever-resourceful, breeders have provided climbing types such as ‘Red Kuri’ and ‘Tromboncino’, and little ‘Butterbush’ sits nicely in a container.

Whatever your choice, warmth, feed and water are essential. And our recent warm summers have improved the chance of a decent crop.

But, like all our New World summer plants, squashes won’t tolerate frost.

So ca’ canny when planting out. Despite our warmer springs, summers and autumns, the RHS has published some chilling data. Late frosts remain as stubbornly uncertain as ever. One ground frost in early June would frizzle your squash.

Every part of the country has its own ‘safe’ planting out date, so, if you don’t know yours, find out.

Here in the southern Borders, it’s the Hawick Common Riding weekend at the beginning of June. Warmer, sheltered spots, especially in towns and cities are undoubtedly earlier.

But the seed germinate and grow quickly, giving you a healthy little plant within 2-3 weeks.

Growing methods have hardly changed over the centuries. 200 years ago, Neil recommended 4 ft. [1.2m] spacing in each direction, as I would.

Dig out a hole 45cm square, 30cm deep. Fill with a mix of well-rotted muck or good compost, mixing in fresh grass clippings for extra heat.

Cover with the excavated soil to form a mound, or ‘hill’ as Neil describes it.

Arrange the mound slightly like a volcanic crater, plant in the centre, and water.

Your crater ensures a good supply of water for the young plant and helps retain regular watering afterwards.

Peg the growing stems of the plant to form a circle round its allotted square metre and cut off shoots intent on spreading beyond the permitted area. Squash grows more slowly when trained this way.

If growing squash up a wall or trellis, choose a suitable variety, one that produces a generous number of tendrils to support the plant and produces fruits that are light enough to be self-supporting.

Plant of the week

Lunaria rediviva. This perennial honesty has sweetly scented, pale lilac flowers followed by the classic, papery seed pods. Fully hardy, it forms a 30cm wide clump in moist soil.