Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter Squash "The Fruit of the Season"

Fall has arrived - which means winter squash recipes are popping up everywhere! This fall time fruit should not be confused with summer squash.  Winter squash differs from summer squash due to its fully ripened state, resulting in a fruit with a hardened skin and fully matured seeds. It is a nutrition powerhouse offering a lower-calorie content loaded with dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese.

How to Pick the Perfect Squash:
When at your local supermarket or farmers market look for squash that is smooth (not shiny) and void of spots and cracks.   Any little blemish on the squash will worsen with storage and result in a pooreer quality.  An overly shiny squash may indicate it has been picked prior to full maturity.  You also want to pick squash that is substantial is size compared to selection - a lighter weight squash could indicate a loss of moisture and drier fruit.

How To Keep Squash Fresh:
If winter squash is not cut it can last for up to 1-2 months, however once cut must be consumed within 7 days.  Squash should be stored around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in a dark place.  Fluctuating temps can promote rotting. Squash are best kept when not touching one another and wrapped in a clothe or paper.

How to Freeze Squash for Later:
Both raw and cooked squash can be frozen and stored for many months.  For raw squash peel and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Place the squash on a cooking sheet in single layer pieces.  Once completely frozen transfer to a freezer safe container. For cooked squash cook as desired (roasting, steaming, broiling) either in cubes or whole squash and let cool.  Remove skin and seeds and let cool. Once cooled transfer to freezer safe container.

Types of Winter Squash:
  • Butternut: has a nutty, sweet flavor resembling pumpkin.  Typically the outer skin is yellow and covers an orange flesh pulp body.  Butternut squash can pureed and included in breads, muffins, or casseroles.  If not pureed can be cut into cubes and roasted or boiled for soups, casseroles, or enjoyed alone.
  • Pumpkin: is one of the most well known winter squash.  Pumpkin has an orange outer layer with an orange flesh bulb body.  It is typically cooked (and pureed) and can be added to either savory or sweet dishes.  The seeds of a pumpkin can also be cooked (typically roasted) and enjoyed.
  • Kabocha: is an Asian type of winter squash.  The flavor of Kabocha is remarkably sweet and the texture resembles a sweet potato and pumpkin mixture.  Kabocha is served similar to other squash recipes - mixed in side dishes, soups, etc.  
  • Acorn Squash: has a distinctive outer skin composed of deep ridges, a sweet nutty yellow-orange flesh is contained within.  It is frequently baked in the oven, but can also be prepared through steamed or microwave methods.  Acorn squash can be stuffed with meat, vegetables, or grains for a delicious recipe creation.  Similar to pumpkins, the seeds can be cooked and enjoyed.
  • Delicata: is a tall yellow squash with dark green stripes covering a yellowish base.  The flavor is quite sweet.  Similar to the acorn squash, delicata can be stuffed with meat, vegetables or grains for a tasty recipe creation.  Additionally the seed are often consumed after they have been toasted.
Your family's dietitian,
Kristen Smith

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