Don't be Bored, Try a Gourd

Squash is among the bounty of foods bequeathed to the world by the Native Americans. There are over 700 varieties of squash, several dozen of which are cultivated widely all over the world. Squashes belong to the same family as gourds, melons and cucumbers. They include summer squashes such as zucchini, crookneck, and patty pan, and the winter squashes such as acorn, buttercup, butternut, Hubbard, pumpkins, and turban are the most common types now available.

The word squash comes from the Narragansett and Iroquois words askut-asquash and isquoutersquash which mean, "eaten raw or uncooked," though that culinary tradition has fallen out of fashion with this family of vegetables.

Squash is a trailing or climbing vine with large leaves and large, generally yellow, flowers. The part most commonly eaten is the round, seed-filled fruit called the pepo. Squash flowers are also edible. Winter squash is a very good source of vitamin A and other carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants and protect against carcinogenic cell damage and blood vessel cell damage. A good winter squash packs a sweet wallop of flavor. They have a dark yellow to orange flesh and a thick rind. The sweetest squashes are generally those with the deepest colored flesh. When stored in a dry, cool area, a winter squash keeps into the spring. Summer squash is a good source of vitamin C, and both types are moderately good sources of magnesium and potassium.

Though individual squashes vary, a typical analysis of the dry components of squash runs 10.5% fiber, 65.5% carbohydrates, 9.0% protein & only 1/2% fat. Winter squashes are exceptionally high in complex-carbohydrates and are said to be medicinal for diabetics and those with digestive problems. Squash in its many myriad forms is quite popular from stuffed zucchini to pumpkin pie to baked butternut to steamed crookneck. Enjoy the bountiful harvest of these versatile vegetables as when we move into the colder, winter weather.

Varieties of Winter Squash
Butternut, one of the most popular varieties, is pear-shaped, with a light brown skin, yellow flesh, and inedible seeds clustered in its bulbous base. Butternuts weigh from 2 to 5 pounds each.
Delicata is shaped like a grooved watermelon with creamy-yellow mottling and dark-green stripes. Some claim it tastes like sweet corn, others liken it to sweet potatoes.
Turban really does look like a turban. It comes in all sizes, some large enough to hollow out and use as a soup tureen. (Note: make sure you haven't inadvertently poked a hole in the skin before you pour hot soup into its depths.) Smaller varieties can be used as table decorations. Buttercup is a variety of turban squash, although it does not look like one.
Acorn is one of the most familiar squashes. A favorite way of cooking it is to halve it horizontally, and fill the emptied seed cavity with apple sauce and maple syrup. Like all winter squashes, it is best served with spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Golden nugget is shaped like a small pumpkin and has a pronounced pumpkin taste.
Hubbard squashes weigh up to 12 pounds; with their knobby green skins, they look as though they might have been kissed by a frog. Inside, the flesh is a brilliant orange. Its taste, when cooked, is mild and pleasant, proving again the old adage about not judging a squash by its warts.
Sweet dumpling is a diminutive pumpkin-shaped ball with dark-green striations interspersed with mottled white skin. Most weigh about half a pound and can be stuffed.
Spaghetti squash really can substitute for spaghetti because when cooked, the yellowish flesh separates into long, thin, translucent strings that resemble pasta, but with many fewer calories. Even so, children may ask for more.

Spaghetti Squash with Garlic
Cut in half and steam 1 large spaghetti squash upside down in a steamer on medium heat for 40 minutes. Heat a large skillet and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, 3 to 6 cloves finely chopped garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Scoop the squash out of its skin, pulling it into strands. Add it to the garlic and toss. Add 2 Tbs. chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss again and serve.
Festive Rice Stuffing
Cook 1 cup organic short grain brown rice, 1 cup organic brown basmati rice, 1/2 cup Ankeny Lakes wild rice.

Chop & stir fry in olive oil: 1 lb of mushrooms (wild are great), 1 cup filberts, 4 or 5 cloves garlic, one large onion, 3 stalks celery, 1 chopped red or green pepper, 12 black olives. Fry lightly then add 1/2 cup raisins or currants, 1 cup frozen or canned corn (optional).

Mix rice with other ingredients, add 1 lb soysage, tofu or seitan (smashed up), 2 tsp. poultry seasoning, a splash of tamari, juice of one lemon & 1/4 cup white wine. Place stuffing in casserole pan or in a lightly steamed squash and bake 30 - 40 min. in medium oven.

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This page built by Ray Neff andDavid ResSeguie Last update: June 11, 1996