Winter Squash: A Staple to Celebrate

December 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

This week we celebrate the humble Winter Squash, from Butternut to Blue Hubbard and everything in between. Winter Squash is healthy, delicious and aesthetically pleasing, yet we have a tendency to feature it at Thanksgiving and then ignore it for the rest of the season. Whatever the reason for the oversight, we do Winter Squash a great disservice by not celebrating it fully throughout the winter months.

While it doesn’t arrive on our tables until late fall, winter squash gets a head start on the farm way back in the early days of summer. The plants are tended for several months before the squash itself can be harvested and brought inside to “cure”, a process that basically involves letting the squash sit in a warm place to ripen fully. The sweetness we recognize in winter squash is a direct result of that curing process.  A properly cured squash will store for months, providing farmers with a source of income through the winter and providing us with rich, nutritious food long after greens are off the menu.

Since we work with so many farmers, we see a great number of squash varieties and look forward to offering our favorites to you this winter.  We’ve seen Acorn, Red Kuri, Butternut, Kabocha, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling as well as some unique heirloom varieties.  This week, our vegetable share members will receive Red Kuri, a gorgeous red squash with a smooth texture and subtly sweet, complex flavor.

Winter Squash is a great source of beta carotene, and is also rich In Vitamin A, C and Potassium.

In the Kitchen
Preparing winter squash can be a bit nerve-wracking – that tough outer rind of varieties like Butternut, Kabocha and Acorn helps the squash keep through the winter but chopping (or hacking!) through it can make you fear for your fingers.  My eyes were opened about a decade ago when I watched a chef slide a roasting pan of whole butternut squashes into the oven.  Yes, whole!  This is my go-to method if I’m just preparing simple roasted squash.   Use a roasting pan with shallow sides, and roast the squash whole for about an hour at 350. It’s done when you can easily stick a knife in it, or when it feels soft to touch.  Let the squash cool a bit before cutting it open to remove the seeds.  The skin will peel right off.

Another less risky option is halving the squash, which allows you to scoop out the seeds before roasting. Place squash cut side down in a baking dish.  A bit of water, maybe half an inch, in the bottom of the dish sometimes helps the process.  Try putting a clove of garlic inside the seed cavity for extra flavor.  Afterwards, spread the roasted garlic on bread!

Roasted squash can be easily mashed.  Mix in a little bit of butter or olive oil, some salt and pepper and you’ll have a delicious side dish. If you get bored, try mixing in a small amount of maple syrup for a sweeter option or curry powder for a savory twist. If you’re into homemade pizza, squash puree is an interesting alternative to tomato sauce, and surprisingly good with cheese!

Varieties like Sweet Dumpling and Delicata have edible skins and are much easier to cut.  Cut them in half, remove the seeds and cut the squash into chunks.  Toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until tender.  They can also be easily mixed into a roasted vegetable dish.  A few nights ago we chopped potatoes, leeks, beets, carrots, parsnips onions and delicata squash into chunks, tossed all of the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them for about an hour, until everything was tender.  Yum!

Email us your favorite winter squash recipes:


Entry filed under: Vegetable Profiles.

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