Get Ready for Winter with Winter Squash
By Joan L. McDaniel October 21, 2014
This is the time of the harvest before the sun goes on its winter vacation. At this time Mother Nature is in her final full display. Beyond summer’s green, brightness this season is decorated with bright, brilliant, and vivid colors. It is my favorite time of the year. The turning leaves, the bright orange of the Jack-o-lantern created pumpkin face, the multi colored inedible gourds, and finally Winter Squash. I have been exploring the taste sensation of autumn’s super food the Winter Squash.
Winter Harvest, Winter Squash and antioxidants.
During this season the pumpkin may get all the attention with its pumpkin pie but Mother Nature provides something more for our taste buds to enjoy. It is a time of anticipated fun and tremendous healthy eating food called Winter Squash. There is summer squash and winter squash and both are highly nutritious and good for you.
Summer Squash is for cooling you off, and Winter Squash is to warm your soul and the rest of you. Winter squash is more vividly colored, denser, flavorful, nutrient-packed and sweeter than summer squash or zucchini. Winter squash varies with each having its own taste sensation.
Best Seasonal Super food to Prepare Your Body For Winter
Winter squash is one of the best super foods Mother Nature has to offer. Its bright orange color suggest it is rich in life promoting beta-carotene antioxidants. The pulp or meat and seeds are loaded with nutritional power. It is as the energy of the sun as stored for you in a hard protective shell to last for at least 6 months. The darker the pigmentation the more the antioxidant. It helps you prepare your body, keep it healthy, and give your immune system ammunition to maintain health during the coming cold winter season.
These are members of the cucurbit family which include inedible gourds, pumpkins, summer squash, and winter squash. Squash are relatives of both the cucumber and melon and come in a wide varieties. Except for the decorative gourd, and summer squash the winter member of the family is represented by the color orange if not on the outside than on the inside.
Summer Squash Types
The summer squash types are lighter with more stored water and thinner skin. They are 95 percent water by weight yet are a good source of fiber. They can be eaten cooked or raw and have a slight sweet herbal flavor.
Zucchini is a staple in many gardens. The dark green, variegated fruits are delicious steamed, sautéed, or baked in zucchini bread. Try ‘Ambassador,’ President Hybrid,’ or ‘Gold Rush,’ a yellow zucchini.
Yellow Squash have a mellower taste and softer flesh than zucchini. Try ‘Early Prolific Straightneck,’ Goldbar’ and ‘Early Summer Crookneck.’
Winter Squash Benefits
Winter Squash is considered another super food therefore it provides many life sustaining benefits including; Pantothenic acid, antioxidants, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, copper, fiber, folic acid, iron, lutein, manganese, magnesium, niacin, Omega-3 Fat, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, Vitamin A (145% OF RDA), B’s including foliate, C (145 % of RDA), E, K, and zeaxanthin.
Their shells are hard and difficult to pierce enabling them to have long storage periods between one and six weeks. Their flesh is mildly sweet in flavor and finely grained in texture. Their flavor is generally sweet like the yam or sweet potato but are not high in sugar. They all have a seed-containing hollow inner cavities. These seeds can be removed cleaned and roasted to be eaten later and another winter treat like pumpkin seeds.
Different Varieties of Winter Squash
Winter squash vary in color, flavor, size and shape. Some varieties of Pumpkins can be considered a winter squash. Some forms of Winter Squash has been cultivated and it seems each country has a squash named for it there is China Melon which is really a squash, there is Korean Squash, and many others. The following varieties of Winter Squash available to us in American during this time of the year are:
There is Acorn, Banana, Boston marrow, Buttercup, Butternut, Carnival, Cheese Pumpkin, Cushaw, Delicata, Hubbard (Blue, Green, or Grey), Kabocha (Green and Red), Kuri (red), Pumpkin Ambercup, Scallop, Spaghetti, Sugar Pumpkin, Sweet Dumpling, Tiger, Turk’s Turban, to name a few.
- Kabocha Squash
- Butternut Squash
- Red Kabocha Squash
- Carnival Squash
- Sugar Pumpkin
- Sweet Dumpling Squash
- Spaghetti Squash
- Blue Hubbard Squash
- Delicata Squash
- Red Kuri Squash
- Buttercup Squash
- Acorn Squash
Acorn – It has a green skin speckled with orange patches and a pale yellow-orange flesh. It is one of the earliest winter squash to appear for it matures in 70 to 80 days. It is rich in potassium and has and unique flavor that is a combination of nutty, peppery and sweet.
Arikara squash is an heirloom variety of C. maxima. This is an extremely rare squash originally grown by the Arikara Indian tribe of the Dakotas among whom its cultivation predates white settlement. This squash is oblong shaped with pinkish flowers. The shape of the fruit can be tear-drop or round, and they are colored in a mottled orange and green pattern.
Ambercup – Cucurbita maxima, one of at least five species of cultivated squash, is one of the most diverse domesticated species, perhaps with more cultivated forms than any other crop. This species originated in South America from the wild C. maxima ssp. Andreana over 4000 years ago.
Banana –has an elongated shape, with light blue, pink or orange skin and bright orange flesh.
Boston marrow – Sweet tasting, narrow at one end and bulbous at the other
Buttercup – is one of the most common varieties of this winter squash, with a turban shape (a flattish top and dark green skin), weighing three to five pounds, and normally heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh.
Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), also known in Australia and New Zealand as butternut pumpkin. It has a slim neck, bulbous bottom, yellow-tan skin, and is shaped like a large pear. It has a deep orange fleshy pulp which has a creamy, sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It originated in Waltham Massachusetts. It matures in 100 days. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately.
Candy Roaster landrace was originally developed by the Cherokee people in the southern Appalachians. Another heirloom variety, it is quite variable in size (10-250+ lbs), shape (round, cylindrical, teardrop, blocky, etc.), and color (pink, tan, green, blue, gray, or orange), yet most have fine-textured orange flesh. This variety enjoys continued popularity, particularly in the southern Appalachians.
Carnival – This squash is breed from a mix of acorn and sweet dumpling squash. It exterior resembles both of its relatives but its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Use whenever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe.
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin – This is not the normal Halloween carving pumpkin, this is what most of the pumpkin pies and other autumn sweet pumpkin treats is made from. It has the color of Butternut Squash and its flavor is very close to the Sugar Pumpkin.
The consensus says it is called a cheese pumpkin because it is the shape and size of a wheel of cheese. They are also often called “Cinderella pumpkins” because with a litle imagination it can be suddenly turned into a carriage to carry a princess by a magic spell which ends at midnight.
This pumpkins are perfect for roasting and making Pumpkin Pie. It is what the canned Pumpkin Pie mixture is made of.
Cushaw – or cucurbita mixta is a green and white striped. They can grow very large, sometimes over 20 pounds and taste like a mixture between acorn squash, pumpkin and summer squash.
Delicata – (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo ‘Delicata’) This winter squash has distinctive longitudinal dark green stripes on a yellow or cream colored background. It flesh is sweet, and colored yellow-orange. It is also known as Bohemian, peanut, or sweet potato squash. Although it is considered a winter squash it belongs to the same species as all types of summer squash. I got one baked it and was amazed to me it this variety tasted just like a pear. Delicata must also mean delicate for it does not store well and must be eaten quickly. Delicata’s are not as loaded with beta-carotene as other winter squashes, but loaded with other powerful nutrition’s.
Hubbarb – Is usually a tear-drop shape and can be dark green, grey-blue or orange-red in color.
This is a larger-sized squash that can be dark green, grey-blue or orange-red (Golden Hubbarb) in color. The Turk’s Turban is a Hubbard Squash. Hubbard’s are less sweet than the other winter squashes.
Jarrahdale pumpkin is a pumpkin with gray skin. It is nearly identical to ‘Queensland Blue’ and ‘Sweet Meat’ varieties.
Kabocha – There is Red Kabocha and a green, both are squat. They are a type of Japanese squash that is becoming popular in the U.S. The deep green skin has faint white stripes running from top to bottom and both have bright orange flesh. The green has an earthy, nutty, savory and slightly sweet flavor but the red is unmistakably sweeter. It’s similar in shape to a buttercup squash.
Spaghetti – If handled properly after cooking this squash resembles yellow sweet spaghetti without the processed carbs. It is also called noodle squash. It was developed in China in 1921 and gained popularity during World War II. Once cut in half and the seeds have been removed scrape a fork across the baked flesh to separate it into pasta-like strands. Serve and use this squash as pasta with any of your favorite pasta sauce. It is far more delicious and cuts out the harmful processed carbs of regular man made flour pasta.
Sweet Dumpling – This squash is the relative of the Carnival Squash. It is a whitish-yellow and green squash that is small and compact. The whole squash once cooked can be used as a bowl for individual serving. The flesh tastes like a sweet potato and the skin is edible as well. You can use the sweet dumpling in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.
Sweet Pumpkin – It is also called a Pie pumpkin. This is a small and squat Halloween pumpkin. They are used as decorative pumpkins and are prized for the classic pumpkin flavor, as well as their flesh-packed walls. This is an excellent pie making pumpkin.
Tiger – Crispy dark green, orange and white stripes on the outside, creamy on the inside, Tiger Squash is ready in less than 15 minutes. I’d expected it to be sweetly caramelized like oven-roasted squash. Instead, Tiger Squash has the savory snap of French fries. It’s a great way to welcome fall produce without heating up the oven or lots of chopping.
Turk’s turban – Is also known as “French turban”, an heirloom predating 1820 and closely related to the buttercup squash. The Turk’s turban squash is Green in color and either speckled or striped. It has an orange-yellow flesh and tastes like hazelnuts.
Gourds – require 120 to 140 days to grow are inedible, hard-shelled and make interesting things like birdhouses, cups, sponges and great Halloween or fall decorations.Much to my surprise they come in many shapes and sizes. I just got two Gooseneck Gourds which I plan to use for decoration.
Pumpkins – Pumpkins are cheery orange globes brightening the fall landscape. They are used to decorate for the season with the traditional Jack-o-lantern faces. There are generally the Halloween carving pumpkins in all sizes and the miniature pumpkin that fit in your hand The pumpkin is a decorating tradition for both Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The word “squash” comes from the Algonquin people, and the Algonquin language a native Canada or North American Indian tribe. Its meaning is something soft and easily crushed.
Modern day squash is developed from the wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. It has been consumed by man for over 10,000 years. Squash may have been used as food containers as well as for winter food. Squash has developed over time and the amount of flesh has increased it use to only contain seeds. As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and sweeter-tasting varieties were developed.
Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World. Today the largest commercial producers of squash include Argentina, China, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Romania and Turkey.
How to Select Winter Squash
Since I am new to cooking and learning as I go, I am taking a great deal of this information from WHFoods and others. We will learn together.
Winter Squash should be firm and heavy for their size. They should have dull, not glossy rinds. The rinds should also be hard, because soft rinds may indicate that the squash inside is watery and flavorless. Avoid any sighs of decay, or mold which is an indication of the vegetable is too ripe and has begun to rot.
How to Store
Winter squash is more durable and has a longer storage life than the softer summer squash. Depending on the variety, it can be kept for one week to six months. Keep it away from direct exposure to light and extreme heat or cold. The ideal temperature for storing is between 50-60°F (about 10-15°C). Once the squash has been cut it needs to be refrigerated. Put in a plastic bag or wrap and they can stay for two days.
Winter squash can be frozen. I have heard that it first needs to be cooked then I have heard someone say you don’t need to cook it. I haven’t tried either yet. But I do know it needs to be peeled, cut into squares and put into plastic freezer bags.
Winter Squash Uses
I find I am now using squash as a substitute for the carb loaded white potatoe, pasta and rice. I use them instead of having hash browns for my eggs in the morning. Using a food blender you can even make some great tasting soups or great when added to stews. If you ask around you may find some old secret winter squash recipes that were a favorite of you Grand Parents or family. Search the net you will find a wealth of delicious recipes.
Winter squash has a wide spectrum of crowd-pleasers and warming winter dishes. Dishes range from soups, casseroles, risotto, lasagna, and even desserts. You can bake, boil, or steam squash until tender.
Before steaming and after baking or boiling cut off the ends and then cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and stringy fibers. Save the seeds for they can make a great roasted snack food like the popular pumpkin seed. Before boiling and after baking or steaming peal the squash using a knife or potato peeler. Some peals can be eaten like Butternut and Kabocha. Butternut squash need special peeling instructions due to its unique shape. First cut in half between the neck and bub. Cut bulb in half and scoop out seeds.
After cooking add to the taste sensation by garnishing the squash with everything from cinnamon to whipped cream. I even used Almond Butter.
You can add almond or any nut butter, butter, celery, cinnamon, garlic, minced ginger, green bell pepper, juice from an lemon, lime or orange, all kinds of nuts, lime or orange, onions, oil (Almond, Coconut, Olive after cooking, or sesame), pepper, pine nuts, pumpkin seed, red chili, sea salt, sesame seed, soy sauce, spaghetti sauce, or any other favorite flavoring while it is cooling but still hot. Research shows that the carotenoids in foods is best absorbed when consumed with oils.
.To Cook the Seeds
Save those seeds for they can make a great snack food eat them like pumpkin seeds. After separating the seeds from the stringy fibers in a colander, lay them flat on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170 F in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The seeds have so baking at a low temperature will not damage the Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty oils.
I don’t find an easy answer to how long to bake squash but generally it depends on the size of the squash generally from 30 minutes to a hour. With a fork or mental skewer poke it in about six places. Placed the dish into the center of the oven and bake until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.
The temperature varies also I have seen 350 to 425 degrees. I have use the lower and longer baking times since I do not cook with high heat.
After cooking Spaghetti squash, let cool then cut in half, remove seeds and pulp with a large spoon or ice cream scoop, then discard. Using a fork, rake the flesh onto a large platter or bowl to create the spaghetti-like stands.
You can steam Winter Squash. Cut squash into 1 inch squares in a steamer and steam in 2 inches of water for 5 to 7 minutes. Squash is done when it is tender, yet still firm enough to hold its shape. Toss it into a bowl and toss it with your favorite garnish and oil.
Till next time