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Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Winter Squash

Clockwise from top left: butternut, delcata, acorn,
and sweet dumpling varieties of winter squash

Winter squash is a summertime annual (meaning it needs to be planted each year) of the gourd family Cucurbitaceae. Unlike summer squashes such as zucchini, winter squashes are picked and eaten in their mature fruit stage, or when they have fully developed seeds and a hard rind. Here in New England, the fruits are harvested in September and October, before heavy frost, to be stored for use throughout the long and cold winter season.

In addition to their extended shelf life, perhaps the best part about these plants is that they are nutrient powerhouses! No matter what the variety, you can count on these complex carbohydrates to be a good source of several important vitamins, minerals, and other dietary essentials: vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, multiple B vitamins including folate, fiber, and even some omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E (certain varieties). That's a whole lot of nutrition for one little plant!

The following are two simple winter squash recipes to try at home: baked squash and roasted seeds. If you'd like to share your favorite winter squash dish, email us at wfcfblog@gmail.com to be featured in our soon-to-come "Potluck Posts."

Baked Winter Squash

The Ingredients:
  • Winter squash of your liking
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Additional seasoning of your preference (optional)

How to Make it:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the squash, pat dry, and then cut it in half. With a spoon, scrape out all the guts (seeds and stringy fibers) and put aside for Roasted Squash Seeds (below) or toss in your compost bin. Put each half into a baking pan or dish with the flesh facing upwards; with a clean finger, spoon, or basting brush, put some olive oil on the flesh and season with salt and pepper. Fill the pan with water, reaching about half way up the sides of the squash. Bake the squash for about 45 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork all the way into the flesh. Enjoy as is or scrape out the flesh and make some mashed winter squash; it's delicious with some butter and additional seasoning like cinnamon and maple syrup!

Steps in baking winter squash

Roasted Squash Seeds

Using the squash guts from above: remove any big pieces of squash stuck to the seeds. There will still be some little bits of slimy, stringy squash stuck to the seeds, so put the seeds in a metal mesh strainer. Under cold running water, gently swirl and rub the seeds against the mesh in order to remove these slimy bits of flesh. When you've removed as much as you can, transfer the cleaned seeds to a bowl of salt water for at least 8 hours; this step is not necessary, but makes the nutrients of the seeds more available for your body to absorb, as well as making them tastier! Next, strain the seeds again and pat them dry. Place the seeds in a clean bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and gently toss the seeds so that they are lightly coated with oil. Evenly distribute the seeds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes or until browned. Be sure to stir the seeds about every 10 minutes to prevent burning.

Media (text and images) created and published by Rebekah Carter (2010)

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