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Giving Thanks

November 20, 2013

The first snow has announced the arrival of a seasonal change. For those of us still acclimating to the shorter days, a warm welcome home and loved ones gathered around the dinner table are cherished moments of the season! When the cold brings us inside to friends and family, we are given a special opportunity to share and give back to the people who mean the most to us.

We can even share the bounty of harvest from our own backyard! Pumpkins, apples, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and edible gourds are examples of seasonal fare. We see them in decorative motifs and holiday imagery but they make for delicious seasonal treats.

Squash, an edible gourd is a staple of the season. The winter varieties keep longer because of their thicker skin-on average from one to six months, stored in a cool dark place (50-70 F). Winter squash come in a variety of colors, shapes, and flavors including:

Squash• Butternut squash: Shaped like a large pear, this squash has cream-colored skin, deep orange-colored flesh and a sweet flavor.
• Acorn squash: With harvest green skin speckled with orange patches and pale yellow-orange flesh, this squash has a unique flavor that is a combination of sweet, nutty and peppery.
• Hubbard squash: A larger-sized squash that can be dark green, grey-blue or orange-red in color. The Hubbard’s flavor is less sweet than many other varieties.
• Turban squash: Green in color and either speckled or striped, this winter squash has an orange-yellow flesh whose taste is reminiscent of hazelnuts.
• Kabocha squash: A type of Japanese squash that is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., kabocha squash is very sweet in flavor. It has deep green skin and orange flesh.

Squash is native to the Americas, near Guatemala and Mexico, and originally was harvested for its seeds. When the Native Americans began to grow it as a substantial starch, their cultivation allowed a more weighty fruit to emerge. The name also originated from “askutasquash,” translated to mean, “a green thing eaten raw,” from the Nahaiganseck Sovereign Nation who inhabited Rhode Island. Edible gourds have also been used in other parts of the world where they were commonly rendered into bowls, bottles, and percussion instruments.

Their incredibly tough skin and soft inside means preparation can happen in a myriad of ways: raw, sautéed, grilled, steamed, boiled, broiled, baked, fried, and pureed for soups, cakes, pies, and breads. The versatility of this food works well when catering to personal preferences, and allows endless possibilities for creativity in the kitchen!

Winter squash are high in nutrients, vitamin A, 1/3 of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and potassium. No single food provides more alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, antioxidants that are naturally anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. Squash seeds are high in omega-3s and like pumpkin seeds they can be roasted for a great snack! At 160-170F, for 15-20min, the low temperature and short bake time ensure that healthy oils stay intact.

Steamed or baked, sharing the history and health benefits of winter squash can be fun.

This simple acorn squash recipe will be a favorite for everyone, especially for kids. The star shape of the acorn squash makes for a fun edible bowl!

Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar

Add the following to taste:
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Walnuts
Maple Syrup

Heat oven to 375 F. Wash and slice off squash top or cut into halves. If you are leaving whole, pierce the sides of the squash with a fork or knife. Cook time: 30-45 minutes, or until soft.
You can peel cooked squash easily or grab a spoon and start scooping!

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