11 Oct Squash – food in focus
Squash belong to the Cucurbitaceae family (no, I’d never hear of it either, let alone pronounce it!) – more commonly called the gourd or melon family (now I feel more at home!) This family is then split into summer and winter varieties.
The flesh and skin can be eaten, and some of the flowers are edible too
Growing & Storing
Happily squash can be bought as seed and grown with some ease. I have some self-seeded squash in the compost heap, apparently an ideal spot!! Although they can take up space they can coexist with taller crops quite happily, covering the ground, keeping moisture in as a bonus.
There are many different types of squash – summer squash include courgettes and marrows, where winter squash include butternut, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and acorn squash being the most popular.
Due to their thick skins winter squash can be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight from one to six months, so ideal to keep you going during the colder months. Once cut, store the squash in the fridge and use within 3 to 5 days.
These bright orange vegetables are rich in carotenes, vitamin C, vitamin B1, folic acid, pantothenic acid, potassium and dietary fibre. Winter squash also offer vitamin B6 and niacin.
Those wonderful nutrients are beneficial in protecting cells against cancers, Type II diabetes, heart disease and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.
As far as I can ascertain there are no discernible deficits to eating squash.
Tips for Using
Squash is beautifully versatile and can be used in savoury or sweet dishes, as a side or as a main, cooked or raw. You don’t even have to peel all varieties, but for thicker skins it is easier to cook them before removing the skins – pierce the skins in several places to allow the steam to escape – bake at around 180c for about 45 minutes.
Butternut squash seen mostly in our supermarkets can be scrubbed clean, and the skins cooked along with the flesh in soups, stews, or as roasted slices. I also like to grate butternut squash, or finely slice it and add it to salads raw or lightly cooked in a stir-fry.
Pumpkins are large and most families are unlikely to eat it all in one sitting. I like to stew/purée the left overs and freeze them, which I can then use later in porridge, or in baking as it adds moisture and sweetness as well as some nutritional benefits.
The seeds can be used for planting or roasting- clean and roast for about 10 to 15 minutes at 180C.
Spices that work beautifully with squash included chilli, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, onion, garlic. It works well with chicken and grains and oriental flavours.
Ideas for dishes
- Bite size pizzas – slice the neck of butternut squash into 2mm thick rounds and top as for pizza, pop in the oven for 10 minutes & enjoy. Great snack.
- Stewed/puréed squash (butternut or pumpkin are good) added to porridge with ginger or cinnamon.
- Spicy Butternut Squash Smoothie – see www.eaternalhealth.co.uk for recipe
- Squash & Beetroot salad – see www.eaternalhealth.co.uk for recipe
- Squash soup – see www.eaternalhealth.co.uk for recipe
- Pumpkin & Ginger cake – see www.eaternalhealth.co.uk for recipe
- Roasted slices sprinkled with smoked paprika served with lentil dhal.
- Stuffed squash – cut the lid off round varieties, scoop out the seeds and stuff with rice and vegetables, and spices galore and serve with a tangy dressing like tahini and ginger.
- Mash for a side dish with some garlic, spices and herbs.
- Spaghetti squash can be cooked whole, and then the shredded with a fork so it looks like spaghetti.
- Spiralise the neck of butternut squash to make spaghetti like strands, serve cold or lightly steam and serve warm.
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