Vegetable Spotlight: Winter Squash
Squash is a gourd of many interesting names. First harvested by Native Americans, “squash” takes its name from the Narragansett “askutasquash,” making it a truly local vegetable. Delicata squash in particular is known as sweet potato squash—not surprising, given its mild flavor and creamy texture. Though it is considered a winter squash, delicata is quite similar to summer squash due to its pale color and thin skin.
Winter squash is harvested in the fall and summer, but its name comes from the thick skin that allows the squash to last through the winter. Pumpkins are perhaps one of the best known squash, but the winter squash family includes such varieties as kabocha, butternut, carnival, sweet dumpling, spaghetti, blue hubbard, kuri, buttercup, and acorn. All supply plenty of vitamins; the darker the squash, the more beta-carotene it contains! Together, the varieties of winter squash provide a colorful spectrum of autumn yellows, oranges, beiges, and greens.
Roasted, steamed, formed into spaghetti, pie, or soup, squash pairs well with seasonings from cinnamon and ginger to lime. Though the outer skin may look intimidating, the squash and seeds inside are worth the wait, and the skin itself is edible too! Ideal storage is in a cool pantry or cabinet. The best squash don’t have bruises, blemishes, or soft spots; are heavy for their size; and have an intact stem.
How to Prepare
To prepare squash, there are a few helpful steps to consider.
1. Wash the squash and cut off the stem.
2. Split the squash lengthwise. It may be helpful to put the squash in the microwave for a minute, then let it stand before cutting.
3. Use a spoon to carve out the seeds from the hollow center of the squash. (Save the seeds! They’re delicious roasted and spiced.)
4. Now cook the squash! It can be prepared just about any way you like. Delicata squash has a particularly beautiful scalloped edge when sliced width-wise.