Winter Squash

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History: Squash appears to have originated in Mexico around 8,000 B.C. From there it spread through North and South America. Originally squash had bitter flesh and its food value/use was the seeds. Over time squash was bred with sweeter flesh and became a staple part of many tribes diets. Squash was introduced to the Old World in the late 15th century, and has become popular in many countries. China is now the worlds largest producer.

Season: End of August though Halloween.

Selection: When choosing squash, ripeness is of great importance. Immature squash is watery, and lacks in sweetness, nutrition, and flavor. Skins should be firm with well defined color. Squash that looks washed out, usually is.

Nutrition: Winter squash is one of the richest sources of carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, which gives squash its rich coloring. Recent research suggests that consuming large quantities of carotenoids from natural sources may help to protect against cancer. Squash is also a good source of Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, riboflavin, and minerals.

Winter Squash, baked, 1/2 cup

Calories 63 Protein 3%
Protein 2 gm. Vitamin A 84%
Carbo 15 gm. Vitamin C 22%
Fat 1 gm. Thiamine 3%
Sodium 1 mg. Riboflavin 8%
Cholesterol 0 Niacin 4%
Fiber 3 gm. Calcium 3%
Iron 4%

VARIETIES

Acorn: Dark green exterior with bright orange spot on underside. Acorn is    an old standard good for stuffing or baking. Good storage.
Butter-cup: Dark green skin with a cup on the bottom. Thick orange flesh, that cooks sweet, with a tender flakiness. An old standby whose rich flavor is yet to be beat. Freezes well.
Butter-nut: Tan colored, bottle shaped, with a small seed cavity. Smooth textured, orange flesh, has nutty flavor. Good storage.
Sweet Dumpling: A delicious, highly ornamental squash. Creamy white rind with green stripes. This is one of the earliest and sweetest of the specialty squash.
Delicata: Nicknamed “Sweet Potato”. Elongated, ivory skin with a green stripe. Individual serving size and sugar sweetness make this a gourmet stuffing and baking squash.
Sugarloaf: Delicata type, with a rusty brown skin tone and a green stripe. Its extra-sweet taste makes this the hottest newcomer of the specialty squashes.
Heart of Gold: Similar to Sweet Dumpling, larger with more of a heart shape. Fine grained, sweet flesh.
Spaghetti: Football shaped, yellow or orange rind. Flesh has spaghetti-like texture, an excellent low-calorie substitute for pasta.
Stripetti: A cross between Delicata and Spaghetti, giving us a unique, new taste sensation.
Honey Delight: Dark green fruits. Bright orange flesh bakes up dry, flaky, and very sweet. Freezes well. Must be mature.
Red Kuri: Bright red, teardrop shaped fruit, with smooth textured flesh. Good for soups and pies as it bakes into a smooth, moist puree.
Hubbard: Old fashioned, all purpose squash, sweet, fine-grained. Freezes and stores exceptionally well.

Baked Winter Squash

Any squash can be cooked this way, in any volume. Wash squash. Cut in half along the equator and remove seeds. Place in baking dish, cut side down, with 1/2 inch of water on bottom of pan. Bake 45 min. to an hour. Shorter baking is moister, firmer. Longer baking is dryer, richer, caramelly. For a dryer, caramelly taste, turn cut side up halfway through baking. Serve in shell,or scoop out and mash. Season.

Steamed Squash

Squash can be steamed instead of baked. Its quicker, and stays very moist. For those preferring dry squash this method is too moist. Cut squash into small pieces. Steam till soft, about 20 to 30 min. Microwaved Squash: Pierce squash skin. Microwave half the cooking time. High (100%). Cut in half. Remove seeds. Cover with wax paper. Cook second half of cooking time. Allow to stand covered 5 minutes. Season.
1 medium squash 8-10 minutes
2 medium squash 20-22 minutes

Experiment with Seasonings: Traditional is butter and salt. Try olive oil, tamari, black pepper, herbs, umiboshi, sauteed red peppers and onions, chili powder or cayenne, garlic, grated ginger, cinnamon and honey, maple syrup.

Mexican Butternut (4-6 servings)

1 butternut squash
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. rubbed oregano
Quarter the butternut. Remove seeds. Steam squash 20 minutes. Slice or mash squash, depending on desired texture. Heat oil in heavy pan. Add chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Stir and fry until fragrant. Add squash and oregano, heat to serving temperature. Serve hot.

Gingered Squash (4-6 servings)

3 cups hot, cooked, mashed winter squash.
2 tsp. butter or olive oil
pinch of salt
2 tbsp. finely grated ginger
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp. honey
Mix all ingredients. Taste and adjust honey/lemon. Serve hot.

Cranberry Stuffed Squash (4 servings)

2 squash, cut in half, seeds removed.
1/2 cup fresh, raw cranberries, chopped
1 small apple, chopped
1/4 cup raisons, chopped
Juice and grated peel of one orange
2 tbsp. honey
Dash of salt
Place squash in baking dish cut side up. Mix all other ingredients. Place them inside squash cavities. Cover dish and bake until squash is tender, 45 minutes to an hour.

Squash and Tomato Stew (serves 6-8)

1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup hot green chili, chopped, adjust to your taste
6 cups chopped tomatoes
1 medium winter squash, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups fresh cut sweet corn (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
In a large pot saute the onions, pepper, and celery in oil until onions are clear. Add garlic, cumin, and chilies. Saute a few minutes, stirring. Add tomatoes, squash, corn, salt, and water. Cover. Simmer gently for about an hour. Add cilantro just before serving. Serve with rice or hearty bread.

Stuffed Winter Squash (8 servings)

4 squash, halved, seeds removed
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups cooked rice
2 cups fresh cut sweet corn
1 can olives, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. rubbed sage
1 tsp. sea salt
Bake squash cut side down at 375 for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, celery, mushroom, red pepper, and almonds in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add the rice, corn, olives, herbs, and salt.Take squash out of oven, turn it over and fill with stuffing. Bake for 30 minutes more. Feel free to leave out any vegetable you don’t like or have. Add your favorites.

 To Freeze Winter Squash:

Bake squash. Scoop out of shell and mash. Cool. Pack into plastic bags and freeze.

Drying Winter Squash:

Bake squash just until soft. Cool. Peel. Slice. Dry in low oven, on trays in the sun, or in a food dehydrator. Store in airtight containers.

To Use: Eat dry, like fruit leather, or soak in water 1 hour, then cook in soak water to a puree, season. Add to soups, stews etc.

Storing Winter Squash:

Winter squash can be stored until the new year. Choose squash that is well formed, mature, and unbruised with a good firm rind. To lengthen storage time, squash can be “cured” by placing in a warm sunny spot (75-85) for 7-10 days. This causes the squash to sweat a natural sealing wax which coats and further protects the squash. Store in a cool (45-55), dry, well ventilated place. Store with squash not touching each other. Does not store well when the growing season ends with a very wet fall. The longest storing varieties are Acorn, Hubbard, Butternut, and Spaghetti.