The Giants (and mini giants) of the Field
Fall is here! Well, sort of. I suppose I always have the mindset that once the state fair is done and all its fried glory has settled into our waistlines, fall is unofficially here. I do believe the actual first day of fall is September 21st. But with fall brings two of my favorite things out of the harvest, apples and squash.
I grew up in an area where we had 4 different apple orchards within 5 miles of our house. I was spoiled to say the least. Along with the apples, there were always squash a plenty! Yes, there of course were the great big carving pumpkins, but mixed in were the relatives of the pumpkin who were thought of as more of a display to mom’s entry way. But don’t overlook any of these produce, even the pumpkins themselves, as nutrition powerhouses and satisfying additions to any fall or winter meal.
There are two main types of squash. Summer squash is best eaten soon after harvest. Varieties include zucchini and the yellow squashes we see also known as crookneck, straightneck as well as pattypan squash. Winter squash is good for fall and if stored right can last you through the cold snaps of winter. Winter squash are my favorite! Varieties include the more well-known acorn, butternut, spaghetti, pumpkins (especially pumpkin pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins). Some of the lesser known are Sunshine squash, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Autumn Cup, Cushaw, Banana, Gold Nugget and Hubbard to name only a few. In my opinion squash can be somewhat interchangeable in some recipes. For example a pumpkin pie pumpkin can certainly be made for pie or soup, but can also be changed out with a Sunshine squash or Delicata. Both tend to lend a somewhat more buttery, sweet taste. Try experimenting with different varieties in your traditional recipes. Although the big, giant pumpkins or even the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins don't really lend themselves very well to cooking, unless you have the patience to saw through one to get it into the oven. I would recommend leaving those out for display and enjoy all of the others!
If you bake a squash whole it can be easier to remove the skin without breaking your knife in half trying to quarter or split it, particularly those slightly larger ones. Although if you want to save the seeds it’s best to try to remove those prior to baking, in my experience. They dry out better when roasting.
Different varieties of squash lend slightly different nutritional value. However most squash are an excellent source of an array of nutrients. Most all squash is high in fiber, almost 2 grams per 1 cup (varying by variety). Fiber is an essential nutrient most Americans lack in. It is necessary for optimal gut health and can help with decreasing the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Squash is also a good source of potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
Squash seeds themselves offer another nutritional punch as they contain the healthy fats, polyunsaturated fats (PUFA's). They also contain the micro nutrients Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium.