This hard-shelled vining fruit is a mainstay of indigenous American foodways. Beloved today for its sweet taste, soft texture and filling nutrition, winter squash was traditionally consumed in its entirety, with flesh and seeds roasted for food, and shells dried out for use as containers and water vessels.
Native to Mexico and Central America, winter squash were used to pioneer the method of “companion planting,” in which crops were planted in pairs to contribute to each other’s growth. In the American southwest, winter squash, corn and beans were known as the Three Sisters, and planted in a system known as the milpa. Carried across the Atlantic by European invaders, winter squash was embraced by people around the Mediterranean Basin, and eventually carried to Asia by Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
supplied beta carotene, Omega 3’s and Potassium
Unpeeled, uncut winter squash can be kept for up to 3 months in a cool, dark, well-ventilated location. Cut and peeled squash can be kept in a sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper for up to 5 days.
Winter squash is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare: simply slice in half, remove seeds, and roast at high heat until flesh is soft enough to scrape out of the skin. Squash can also be peeled and cubed before being cooked. Starchy varieties like kabocha and kuri are best for frying and baking, while dense varieties such as pumpkin and acorn squash are better for baking or steaming, and the softer butternut and delicata are ideal for purées, soups, stews and curries.
Cut winter squash down the middle, remove seeds, and roast at 450 for about 60 minutes, or until squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Let cool slightly and scoop flesh out of skin. Add cooked squash to a high-speed blender with sautéed onions and garlic, a whole apple (seeds removed), and enough vegetable broth to barely cover. Add your favorite spices such as curry and garam masala, cumin and chile, or cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. Add a dash of cream or coconut milk, if desired. Process in a blender until mixture is thick and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve topped with roasted squash seeds.
Winter squash seeds can be easily removed using a melon baller or ice cream scoop in place of a spoon.