The change of seasons is upon us here in British Columbia, and that means new autumnal vegetables are taking the place of summer’s harvest. Where we once had beautiful, soft-skinned zucchini’s, we now have large, hard-skinned winter squash. Winter squash are varieties of squash that have different looks and flavours, but they are all very healthy for you. Check out your local farmer’s market this week to pick up some winter squash. They make for great side dishes, as well as soups, and provide a pleasant autumn aesthetic to any kitchen.
Winter squash varieties that have a sweeter flavour are red kabocha, butternut, sweet dumpling, and blue hubbard squash. Mild flavoured winter squash varieties are buttercup, acorn, and spaghetti squash. Squash with more earthy flavours are kabocha (green), delicata, and red kuri squash. Red kuri has a chestnut-like flavour.
Squash are a very healthy food. They are an excellent source of vitamin A. They are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and manganese. They are a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, tryptophan, and various B vitamins. They are also low in calories.
You can bake the flesh of the squash to make a delicious and hearty side dish. It is also quite easy to prepare. You preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As a helpful hint, put the whole squash in the preheating oven for about 7 minutes to soften the gourd, making it easier to cut the squash. Once you remove the squash from the oven, using a towel because it will be hot, you cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pulp with a large metal spoon. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush with one tablespoon of canola oil and sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Place the squash on the parchment paper, flesh-side down. Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the squash over and put back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the flesh is soft. When you turn the squash over, it is optional to add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar to the flesh-side to sweeten the squash.
Like pumpkin seeds, you can roast winter squash seeds to make a delicious and healthy snack. Simply place the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes.
Squash can be kept through the winter if certain conditions are met. For one, you must buy a near-perfect squash. This means the squash has no bumps or bruises, and the stem is still attached. They store best in dry air. They do not like cold or damp conditions. If stored correctly, most squashes will survive into the spring.
If you are in Vancouver and looking to eat some squash, you have a couple of options. East is East has two locations, one on West Broadway and another on Main Street. They serve a sambar (butternut) squash soup. Bandidas Taqueria on Commercial Drive has many squash options, including the “Stella”, “Dani’s” enchilada, and “Sophie’s Poblano.” Try either of these restaurants for delicious squash options, or, better yet, buy some local squash from the farmer’s market and try experimenting in the kitchen with this delicious autumn crop.
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