6 Surprising Things About Winter Squash
This post written by guest blogger – Aubrey Jenkins
A Powerhouse Vegetable
Unlike summer squash, winter squash are greedy vegetables that remain on the vine for months, soaking up additional nutrients and minerals from the soil. They are a wonderful source of B Vitamins (often missing in vegetarian diets!) as well as A, C, potassium and a super amount of fiber. They are also shockingly low in fat and calories without compromising flavor.
When local vegetable options seem slim during the grey winter months, it’s wonderful to have a seasonal vegetable as versatile and adaptable as a winter squash. The buttery, sweet flesh of a winter vegetable pairs nicely with a wide range of flavors – both sweet and savory. Get creative with savory herbs, roasted or raw garlic and shallots, cheeses and butter, dried chilies or acidic flavors like lime or balsamic vinegar. Or take it to the other extreme and pair it with sweet spices like nutmeg or cinnamon, brown sugar and maple syrup. There is no limit.
‘Winter’ squash are actually summer-growing vegetables that are harvested once the skin has hardened and the inner seeds have matured fully. Really, ‘winter squash’ are in season here in the Northwest from late September to early March. Needless to say, you should take advantage of their abundance. They are also successful in most home vegetable gardens! Next April, plant a few seeds of a few different winter squash varieties and see what happens!
I love any vegetable that I don’t have to worry about going bad in my fridge if forgotten about for a few days. Properly stored after harvest in a cool (55 degrees or so) and dry place, winter squash can be stored between four and six months! Just don’t stack them too high, as they require air to circulate around them to prevent them from rotting. Small cubes of fully roasted, de-skinned squash can also be frozen and used to add to a quick soup or for baking.
The Myth of Rinds
While great for carving and making jack-o’-lanterns, the majority of winter squash have hard, gourd-like rinds. However, not all winter squash are the same! Varieties like kabocha squash (not to be confused with kombucha…) have a thinner, dark green skin that is entirely edible when cooked. Besides adding texture and color to your dish, the rinds pack in extra dietary fiber and additional nutrients. Just be sure to wash and scrub your kabocha well before cooking.
A Winter Cold Buster
Boost your immune system with vitamin C, carotene and antioxidants found in winter squash. Or if you do happen to catch a cold, a bowl of squash soup or steamy roasted squash will be sure to make you feel better.
What are some of your favorite uses for winter squash? Check back tomorrow for a great squash soup recipe!
Aubrey Jenkins is an up-and-coming food blogger and photographer from Seattle who writes to inspire home chefs to cook intuitively and eat mindfully with a focus on whole foods, seasonal eating and healthful alternatives. Check her out at www.drumbeets.com