An abundance of winter squash, in a lovely array of shapes and with colors ranging from dark green to deep red-orange, were a mainstay of our FACSAP produce shares in the last few weeks of our harvest season.
At every distribution, at least one member asked, “Is this edible or just ornamental?”
Each of the winter squash varieties included in this season’s produce share is, indeed, edible.
Winter squash is one of my favorite autumn vegetables—and far superior to its summer squash relatives, in my opinion. Not only is it visually appealing and perfect for an autumn table centerpiece, it’s also packed with nutritional benefits and flavor.
The flesh of a winter squash is low in fat and nutrient-dense: it boasts healthy amounts of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C (about half of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C in one cup of squash). Because of its high level of anti-oxidants, winter squash is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the risk of health issues like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
My favorite way to prepare winter squash—any variety—is to simply cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, place it on a baking pan, and roast it in the oven (at about 350°F) until it’s soft and has begun to brown and caramelize around the edges. Sometimes I add a sprinkling of salt, a drizzle of olive oil or maple syrup, or freshly-grated ginger. For me, this is a delicious meal in itself. For variety, the baked squash can be mashed or puréed and incorporated into savory soups, casseroles, risotto, and stuffing, or baked into sweat treats like pies and nut bread. The possibilities are endless.
For those of you who are looking for a vegetarian or vegan substitute for the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, why not try a baked winter squash, dressed with savory herbs, nuts, and wheat berries?
The great thing about winter squash is that, if properly stored, it will keep for months.
No need to feel overwhelmed, just thankful!
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Winter squash storage life varies by squash type: acorn squash stores for about 4 to 6 weeks, butternut stores up to 6 months. Keep squash in a cool, dry spot. Most varieties store best at 50º to 55º F with relative humidity of about 60%.
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The following recipe calls for butternut squash, because of its rich color, but any winter squash will do:
approx. 3 to 4 cups of cooked butternut squash
juice of 1 lemon
2 or 3 tablespoons of tahini
1 clove of garlic (baked this with the squash to soften)
salt to taste: instead of table salt, try soy sauce, miso, or pitted green olives
optional seasoning: cumin, cayenne
approx. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Roast squash and garlic.
Once slightly cooled, purée with lemon juice, tahini, and seasoning in a food processor.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.