Pumpkins seems to get all of the attention each Autumn.
Pumpkin spice lattes. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin pies. Jack-o’-lanterns.
But, remember, pumpkins are just one kind of winter squash.
You can also find many other varieties of winter squash in your garden or at your grocery store.
There’s butternut squash, acorn squash, delicata, spaghetti squash and others.
So, what are the characteristics of a summer squash versus a winter squash, besides the obvious fact that they are harvested at different times of the year?
As the website Harvest to Table explains, the winter squash has a hard outer shell and firm flesh — prolonging its storage life, so it can last throughout the winter.
Winter squash is best enjoyed roasted, stewed or baked.
Meanwhile, the summer squash, such as the well-known zucchini and yellow squash, has a soft skin and moist flesh and can be eaten raw, steamed or sautéed. They won’t hold up as long and should be eaten within a few days.
While the hard skin of the winter squash allows it to endure the cold, it makes it hard to cut.
So, here’s a tip: Microwave the squash first, to make it easier to slice in half, or peel.
First, wash the squash’s skin and dry it. Then, use a knife to carefully make a few slits down the middle of the squash, where you plan to cut it in half. Then, use a fork to poke some holes throughout to allow steam to escape.
Then microwave for about 5 minutes.
You’ll still need to put a little muscle into it, but it will help.
Winter squash is more than just a comfort food.
It is high in carotenoids, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, and the minerals magnesium and potassium, so enjoy the different types all throughout the season to reap the health benefits.
With the different types of winter squash and the different ways to cook it, you should have plenty of variety to enjoy throughout the season.
As a bonus, enjoy the seeds!
I admit, I didn’t think much of squash seeds.
When carving a pumpkin for Halloween, I always saved the seeds and then roasted them, but for some reason, I always discarded squash seeds up until recently, when I realized I was throwing away a perfectly good protein-filled snack.
They are smaller than pumpkin seeds and don’t need as long to roast (about 15-20 minutes baked at 275°, or until they start to “pop”).
And, get creative with them:
In a bowl, coat the seeds with a tablespoon of olive oil and, instead of salt, try ½ teaspoon of spices, such as red pepper flakes, cinnamon, or garlic powder.
By Shari Bresin
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Here is a butternut squash soup recipe I’ve made that came from cooksmarts.com (https://www.cooksmarts.com/articles/butternut-squash-with-white-bean-soup/):
Butternut Squash with White Bean Soup
Serves: 6 (as a side), 3 (as a main)
- 1 butternut squash, chopped
- 1 medium to large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 to 3 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 to 3 sage leaves
- 1 (14.5 oz) can white beans, drained
- 1 quart broth (veggie or chicken) or water
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
- Maple syrup, to taste (optional)
- Creme fraiche or sour cream, for serving (optional)
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the oil and then garlic.
- Add the chopped onion, sage, and thyme leaves.
- Sauté for about 3 minutes, tossing with a heat-safe spatula or wooden spoon a few times.
- Add the butternut squash and drained beans, and pour enough stock /water to cover all the ingredients.
- Cover pot with its lid and bring to a boil.
- Once the soup boils, keep the lid on and lower heat to a simmer, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let the soup cool down, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
- Then place the immersion blender in the soup, tilt at about a 10 degree angle, and puree at a medium setting.
- Season to taste with nutmeg and maple syrup for a bit of sweetness.
- Ladle into bowls and swirl in a spoonful of creme fraiche.
Note: I also added kale (added last, not pureed) to give it more color.
Published October 30, 2019
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