What’s In Season? Butternut Squash

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.”

Herb Garden 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.

Butternut Squash 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.

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8 thoughts on “What’s In Season? Butternut Squash

  1. Mallika 25 October 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I love your blog! Cooking simply is so my thing…

    Butternut squash has great flavour and texture doesn’t it? I tend to make spicy parsnip and butternut squash soup. The spiciness (is this a word) of the chillies really complements the sweetness of the squash.

    But it would be useful to have a new recipe or two. I’ll check again soon for the suggested recipes.

  2. inmykitchen 30 October 2006 at 11:28 am

    Here is my offering in your “challenge”:
    http://inmykitchen.wordpress.com/2006/10/30/experimenting-with-squash/

    Let me know what you think

  3. cooking chat 15 November 2006 at 8:38 pm

    your post here inspired me to do something new with butternut…here’s my resulting recipe for Butternut Chicken Risotto with Fresh Sage:

    http://cookingchat.blogspot.com/2006/11/butternut-chicken-risotto-with-fresh_15.html

  4. Mindy 23 December 2006 at 11:29 pm

    I recently decided to try cooking some different winter squash. I’ve done 2 things with the butter
    nut. Wash it, cube it and roast in convection oven 375 for about 45 minutes soft and somewhat carmel-
    ized. Season with olive oil, cumin, garlic, sea
    salt, fresh pepper, and chili powder. If I don’t
    eat all of it prior to serving I like to serve
    with blue cheese and roasted sunflower seeds.
    Tonight I served with a spinach salad. I have
    eaten the skin which you say is inedible, and I’ve
    had no adverse effects. Also made soup with it,
    very good. Well, just wanted to share. Happy
    holidays!!

  5. shannonoz 27 December 2006 at 10:04 am

    Thanks, Mindy – some good ideas. I looked up winter squash on foodreference.com to check the inedible reference: “Unlike its summer counterparts, winter squash is harvested at a mature age, which makes the skin hard and inedible. The skin, however, is protective and increases its storage life.” This was confirmed in a couple of other sources, too. However, I don’t know if that means you would suffer ill effects from eating the skin, just that the skin may not be digestible. In any case, I would advise against using the skin in winter squash preparations.

  6. Stacy Smithson 23 November 2008 at 2:34 pm

    I am pretty sure a cut butternut squash will last a good bit longer than 3 days in the fridge. People throw out a lot of good food because they’re afraid it’s gone “bad.”

    You can certainly eat the skin; I have done so on numerous occasions; it causes no harm and likely does some good! It’s a bit tough. However, since winter squash is one of the most highly sprayed of crops, I would not eat it unless it’s a home-grown or an organic squash.

  7. Shannon 24 November 2008 at 8:29 am

    Stacy- Thanks for your comments. I throw out produce based on what it looks and smells like—3 days is a guideline I got from my reference books. I do think you could cube and freeze it to keep it longer, no problems.

  8. cheryl 11 December 2012 at 10:37 am

    Butternut squash is perfect in rissoto. Can’t wait to make it soon.

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