The November Fruit of the Month is Squash!
Did you know…
Even though we typically think of squash as a vegetable, all squash are actually fruit – yes, fruit! Squash have seeds; so botanically, they’re considered fruit. While this may or may not affect your love of this tasty fall favorite, as the harvest season ends, many of us tend to gravitate toward foods with rich, autumnal colors – and that’s no accident.
Archaeological evidence gathered from Canada to South America shows people have known about the benefits of squash for almost 10,000 years. For generations, people relied on two primary sources of food to get through the winter months: wild game, and nutrient-dense plants that keep well… like squash! That means craving Mom’s squash soup or pumpkin pie is more than just nostalgic– those complex carbohydrates can come in handy when the temperatures drop.
Summer squash tend to have a relatively long growing season. They are planted in the spring and early summer, but are readily available well into the fall and early winter. There are many different types, including the popular zucchini and common yellow/crookneck squash; as well as the pattypan, which comes in shades of yellow, green, cream, and even white. All have a mild flavor and can be shredded (skins and all) for soups or sauces, or can be baked or grilled.
Winter squash arrive in supermarkets or farmer’s markets late summer through late winter. These heartier varieties have a thicker outer shell which allows them to keep for longer periods of time. Butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and spaghetti squash are some of the more well-known types, but there are plenty of unusual shapes and colors to add to your table like the blue hokkaido, the plump cheese (aka Cinderella pumpkins), the cheerfully-striped delicata, the speckled kabocha, and the humongous hubbard. Flavors range from mild to nutty to sweet, and all are good candidates for roasting, baking, or pureeing for soups.
All squash are members of the gourd family, and they are super nutritious. High in dietary fiber, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and an assortment of phytonutrients, squash is far from an empty-calorie food choice.
Squash is quite versatile too:
- Almost every type of squash can be used as a substitute for pumpkin
- Squash can be stuffed with meat, fruit, and nuts for a sensational baked meal
- It can be chunked and roasted as a flavorful side dish
- Squash serves as a hearty base for soups and stews
- Need we say more?
- Dinner and decoration: squash can also be the centerpiece of your fall or winter table!
With its rich flavor base, squash makes it easy and fun to create delicious and healthy meals and desserts. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Bake a butternut squash, purée it, and make soup! Carrots, onions, even apples, and a touch of cream will yield a tasty, filling, and nutritious meal.
- Need an alternative to pasta? Spaghetti squash to the rescue! After being baked or roasted, spaghetti squash comes apart in tasty strands of goodness, ready for your favorite sauces.
- Tired of fried potatoes? Sauté some zucchini with a little garlic or halve and seed, then fill with goat cheese and drizzle with honey and roast… delicious!
- How about something out of the ordinary? Halved acorn squash can be stuffed with your favorite mixture of meat, vegetables, or fruit and nuts and baked into a ready-to-eat, self-contained meal!
- Squash seeds are tasty and good for you– roast them with a little olive oil for a fantastic Fall movie snack!
Helpful Squash Equivalents:
- 1/3 to 1/2 pound raw unpeeled squash = 1 serving
- 1 pound peeled squash = 1 cup cooked, mashed
- 2-1/2 pounds whole squash = 2-3/4 to 3 cups pureed
- 1 pound trimmed squash = 2 cups cooked pieces
- 1 pound squash = 2 to 3 servings
- 12 ounces frozen squash = 1-1/2 cups
- 1 medium-size (15 to 20 pounds) pumpkin = 5 to 7 quarts of cooked squash
You can’t beat squash– a great all-around choice for the dinner table. Just don’t be surprised when your family starts asking you to cook the Autumn centerpiece you spent all that time arranging.
Learn more about squash, and grab a delicious zucchini carrot bread recipe with this Pick It! Try It! Like It! fact sheet.