Squash’s Time to Shine
Thanksgiving is always associated with a lot of squash. People may not realize just how much squash is part of Thanksgiving. First there is the pumpkin pie a staple at every Thanksgiving dinner. Often squash is also a dish on the table maybe baked with maple syrup or brown sugar or layered into lasagna. Then you have the decorative squash, the gourds and mini-jacks which often the center pieces of a Thanksgiving table. So maybe we should change the name of the holiday to Squashgiving. Although that sounds ridiculous squash definitely has a leading role in Thanksgiving celebrations.
On Willowtree Farm we grow about 10 acres of all kinds of different squashes. We grow green and yellow zucchini (summer squash), pepper/ acorn squash, buttercup, butternut, Red and Blue hubbard squash, pie pumpkins, mini Pumpkins, Jack-o-Latren Pumpkins, Warty pumpkins, ghost pumpkin, Giant pumpkins, gourds of all shapes and colours including giant pear and swan gourds and I’m sure I have still missed a few.
The zucchini or summer squash have thin, edible skin and soft seeds, and are high in vitamins A and C. The tender flesh has a high water content, sweet and mild flavour, and requires little cooking. For best flavour, choose small squash (4 to 6 ounces each) with blemish-free skin. They keep well refrigerated in a plastic bag for about 5 days.
The zucchini flower is also a delicacy. It is wonderful stuffed, in stir-fry, fried or my personal favourite is in tacos with mushroom and cheese.
Then there is the colourful array of winter squash. Despite their name, winter squash are a warm weather crop, getting their name because they can be stored through the winter.
This year in particular was difficult for the winter squash, because of the long period of hot and dry weather; a lot of young fruit aborted, resulting in a lower yield than previous years.
Winter squash have hard, thick skin and large seeds, and are high in vitamins A and C, iron and riboflavin. The flesh is firm and requires long cooking times to soften. When selecting a squash look for a squash that is heavy its size, hard, deep-coloured, and the skin is blemish-free for long storage. Winter squash can be stored in a cool, dark place for months. Rod has a large butternut squash from last year that is still in perfect condition (12 months!). He is keeping it just to see how long it will last. Many times he has warned us not to cook it up, but I can’t wait to try it.
Even our animals on the farm love to eat the squash family. The pigs run around squealing every time they see one of us coming towards them with a pumpkin in hand. They particularly loved the giant pumpkin which they devoured in half an hour of shear joy. For the cows the day after Halloween is their favourite day because we load up all the pumpkins into the manure spreader to break them up and feed them the pumpkins. They moo with delight till every last pumpkin seed is eaten up.
Now some fun food facts about “The Squash Family”
The Pumpkin belongs to the same family the cucubrites, which include the melons and cucumbers.
Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita, and divided into two categories — summer and winter squash.
Squash, along with corn and beans are believed to have originate in Mexico, over 7, 500 years ago.
Squash is an excellent source of mineral, beta carotene, potassium and vitamin A, with moderate quantities of vitamin B and C.