Ode to Squash
"I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”
-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
We may be a few days early, but we just couldn’t wait. We love October that much. The falling temperatures (in some areas of the country, anyway), the sunset-hued foliage, and of course, winter squash. We’ve espoused our preference for pumpkin time and again (you can check out some of our favorite pumpkin items in this month’s Flyer), but now we want to raise a fork to some of the pumpkin’s bulbous brethren.
Just what is a “winter” squash?
Contrary to what the name may suggest, winter squash are actually grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. Historically, though, they've been stored for use throughout the harsh winter months. To make matters more confusing still, the word squash is derived from the Narragansett language and roughly translates to “a green thing eaten raw,” but we generally cook them prior to eating them. Talk about an identity crisis.
The winter squash varieties we know today are descendants of varieties native to the early Americas, which were eventually carried to Europe by explorers returning from the New World. Because it takes 80 to 100 days for winter squash to fully ripen, they develop somewhat thick skins to protect the meaty flesh and seeds inside – a handy feature for those traveling the long journey to Europe by boat or surviving a harsh New England winter.
Gourd things come to those who wait (sorry, we couldn't resist). Once the squash has become heavy for its size and the skin has toughened up, it’s ripe and ready to be used in a multitude of autumn-inspired dishes. Below, we have some ideas to get you cooking. And if you’re squashed for time, we present a few winter-squash-starring products you can easily fall back on. Do it yourself, or don’t. But don’t wait – these seasonal favorites won't all last until spring!
So many types of squash to conquer, so few fall days. How to choose? When it comes to squash, looks do matter, but it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts. We want to help you get to know your curcubita (Latin for "gourd"). With this handy guide, detailing what you’ll find on the inside (and outside) of our squash varieties, you’ll be prepared to pick your perfect squash.
1. SPAGHETTI SQUASH | $2.49-2.99 each
The Carb Replacement – with an oblong body, yellow skin and flesh that, when cooked and scraped from the inside of the squash, resembles noodles. Substitute it for spaghetti noodles, use as a base for Pad Thai, bake into casseroles...
2. BUTTERNUT SQUASH | $1.79-1.99 each
The Multi-tool (culinarily speaking, of course) – with tan skin and bright orange flesh that tastes great no matter how it’s cooked. Its velvety texture is especially suited to soups and purées.
3. ACORN SQUASH | $1.29-1.49 each
The acorn look-a-like (albeit a bit larger), with green skin encasing pale orange flesh, nutty flavor and earthy aroma. It's very versatile and when halved makes a festive vessel for lots of other tasty ingredients – soups, pot pies, etc.
4. DELICATA SQUASH | $.99 each
The winter squash imposter – this one is ready to harvest and eat in August, though is still great through fall – and has thin, creamy, pale yellow skin that does not have to be peeled prior to eating. Slice in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, roast and eat. Repeat until full.
5. HONEYNUT SQUASH | $.99 each
The “Mini Butternut” – a hybrid of Butternut and Honeycup squash – with flesh that is nearly ten times sweeter than its parent varieties. Its small size makes it ideal as a side dish for two or hearty entrée for one.
Cooking with Curcubita
Though each squash has a distinctive look and flavor profile, they are still family. As such, these family members can all be prepped in a similar way. The prep does not look like the carving often done to cousin Pumpkin—no eyes or mouth necessary (though nothing’s stopping you…). And yet, it’s just as simple and at least twice as delicious.
BASIC SQUASH PREP:
- Wash and dry squash.
- Using a sharp knife, slice squash in half lengthwise and scrape seeds from inner cavity.
- Season squash to taste.
- Place cut side up in a microwave-safe dish, then cover and microwave on high for 10 to 15 minutes until fork-tender. OR: follow steps 1-3 above and bake uncovered, cut side down at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (for smaller squash like Delicata) to 50 minutes (for larger squash like Butternut) until fork-tender.
- Let cool slightly before handling, then peel and cut squash* and use as desired.
*in the case of spaghetti squash, scrape the squash away from the peel with a fork; use the squash “noodles” as desired.
Gourmet With Gourds:
Once you’ve mastered the possibly-intimidating-but-actually-quite-manageable squash prep, you’re well positioned to get gourmet with your gourds. Put your newfound squash skills to good use by whipping up these simple, squashful recipes.
Though hummus is traditionally made with chickpeas, we couldn’t resist the vibrant color—and outta-this-world taste—created when we subbed in butternut squash.
What’s not to love about a fall-flavored taco? Especially one that shows off acorn squash’s impressive and tasty versatility. There’s even a bit of lingering summer flavor wrapped in these tortillas... (Island Salsa, anyone?)
Gourmet Gourds To-Go
Feeling too squashed to conquer Curcubita yourself? We’ve got you covered. The following products are just a taste of the squash-starring, ready-to-enjoy items we carry throughout the fall, for which we’re sure you’ll fall.
1. BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP | $2.99 for 32 fl. oz.
Nothing screams fall like soup…especially squash soup. Spices and a hint of sugar complement the warm, nutty flavors of butternut squash. Add a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and a sprinkling of green onions for a truly gourmet bowl. And don’t forget the…
2. PUMPKIN SOUP CRACKERS | $1.99 for 3.5 oz.
We’ve coaxed the warm, earthy flavors of pumpkin soup into thin, crispy gluten free crackers. Try them with mild cheeses or hummus. And although soup might be in the crackers, don’t let that stop you from putting them in soup, too. The preceding Butternut Squash Soup is an obvious favorite.
3. FALL ZUCCHETTE PASTA | $1.99 for 14 oz.
A pumpkin-shaped pasta that derives its orange hue from butternut squash. Individual pieces are small enough to fit a few on a fork or spoon, and their shape makes it easy to hold sauces, like...
4. AUTUMNAL HARVEST PASTA SAUCE| $3.49 for 25 oz.
Packed with seasonal "extras" pumpkin, butternut squash and carrots which add sweetness and thickens the sauce. A suitable substitue for any other tomato-based sauce for pasta dishes.
5. BUTTERNUT SQUASH QUINOA SALAD | $3.99 for 9.5 oz.
Arugula, spinach, and red quinoa constitute the base of this perfect-for-fall-but-available-year-round salad. But it’s the chunks of roasted butternut squash, cranberries, and a honey sesame vinaigrette that really cement its autumnal esteem.
NOTE: Since posting, the details of this item may have changed due to fluctuating market prices, federal regulations, currency rates, drought, pestilence, bandits, rush hour traffic, filibusters, clowns, zombie apocalypse, punctilious product developers... Contact our Crew for current price and availability.