The Commons presents some miscellany about winter squash, the Vermont Harvest of the Month for December. Thanks to Sophie Westover, Vermont Harvest of the Month coordinator at Green Mountain Farm to School, for permission to share these tips.
Winter squash is true to its name: it stores well throughout the winter! The flesh of these fruits is yellow-orange, with variations in taste and texture. Purée it for a scrumptious soup or roast with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
• To ease preparation, cook winter squash in its skin whenever possible.
• To make peeling easier, halve or quarter winter squash.
• Save the seeds. Toss them with olive oil and salt, then bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes.
• Sweet potatoes can be replaced by winter squash in many recipes.
• To select a fully-ripe squash at the peak of its flavor, look for firm, dull-colored skin. A fully-ripe squash will be heavy for its size. If the squash is too young, the skin will be shiny and the flesh less flavorful; if it is too old, the skin will be crinkled and the flesh fibrous.
• Winter storage: Remove all dirt and leave on a portion of the stem. Store out of the sunlight, between 50-60 degrees F, with good ventilation. Depending on the variety, winter squash can be stored between 1 and 6 months. Refrigerate winter squash only if it has been cut or cooked.
• To freeze: Cook and purée, then place in a labeled and dated freezer-grade bag.
Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin A, the mineral potassium, and carotene pigments; it is a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), B5 (pantothenic acid), B9 (folic acid), and C, as well as dietary fiber and the mineral copper.
Kid-friendly eating tips
• Make it savory: Cube, add olive oil, your favorite dried herb, salt and pepper, then roast; add to a salad, taco, rice dish, omelet, or macaroni and cheese.
• Make it sweet: Slice, add olive oil, maple syrup, and/or cinnamon.
• Stuff it: Halve squashes, roast upside down, then add a stuffing. Purée roasted squash for a soup or pie!