I try to eat seasonally as much as possible. I think seasonal eating is something we have lost touch with in our culture of “have it when you want it.” But when you eat a vegetable at the appropriate season, it’s more flavorful and more nutritious. Likely, it has traveled a shorter distance to get to you and required less elaborate storage, meaning less impact on the environment and less use of fossil fuels. So local, seasonal eating is good for you and good for the planet.
Of course, you don’t have to go overboard. Last time I checked, we didn’t grow avocados in North Carolina in any season, but that doesn’t mean I’m going without guacamole for the rest of my life.
To find out what’s in season, visit your local farmers market and buy whatever they’re selling. You also get to meet the people who grow your food, and unless they’re trying to pass off papayas as “local,” you know you’re getting produce that was grown and harvested nearby. Whenever I go to the local hippie-dippie grocery store (called Earth Fare around here, a wonderful place that is open 24 hours a day and is always empty), I buy whatever’s labeled “local.”
My goal is to someday have the space and time to grow a lot of my own food. This was our first summer in this house, so I started out small with a pretty comprehensive herb garden (see photo). Next year, we’re planning to put in a couple of raised vegetable beds. Before you know it, we’ll have chickens, goats and a full-scale orchard. I wonder how that will go over with the homeowners association.
But we were going to talk about butternut squash (the guy on the right). Butternut squash is what is known as a winter squash. Winter squashes are harvested now and then stored for eating throughout the winter. Unlike summer squashes (such as zucchini), winter squashes have a thick, inedible skin that you have to remove somehow.
What I do is hack the squash in two just where the “bulb” begins. Then I slice off the skin, trying to remove as little of the flesh as possible. I scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff in the middle, which is always a bit messy. Then I cube the squash meat for cooking. One serving is equivalent to 1 cup of cubed squash. Generally, a smallish 1-pound squash will yield 2 cups of flesh.
When you go to buy a butternut squash, choose one that feels firm and heavy when you heft it. Store the thing in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month. Once you’ve cut it, wrap the cut end in plastic and store the unused portion in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
What can you make with butternut squash? Well, the one pictured above is going to be turned into soup (I’ll post the recipe tomorrow, probably). But you can also roast it or simmer it in liquid and butter until soft. Once it’s cooked, you can mash it like potatoes. Butternut squash is a nice addition to a pasta or risotto. You can even use cooked squash to make squash bread (instead of pumpkin bread or zucchini bread, for instance).
Let me know what you did with your butternut squash.