A Green Thing Eaten Raw

The English word “squash” derives from askutasquash – literally “a green thing eaten raw“, a word from the Narragansett language, which was documented by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, in his 1643 publication “A Key Into the Language of America”.

Similar words for squash exist in related languages of the Algonquian family such as Massachusett.

Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit (being the receptacle for the plant’s seeds), and not a vegetable.

In fact, there is a fruit squash. Fruit squash is a concentrated sweetened fruit juice preparation which is diluted before drinking.

Squash Food Facts

In addition to the fruit, other parts of the plant are edible. Squash seeds can be eaten directly, ground into paste, or (particularly for pumpkins) pressed for vegetable oil. The shoots, leaves, and tendrils can be eaten as greens. The blossoms are an important part of native American cooking and are also used in many other parts of the world.

Spaghetti Squash: A gourd, also called cucuzzi, calabash, suzza melon; is often classed as summer squash but is not a true squash. Only after cooking does the flesh resemble spaghetti in appearance.

Squash is available all year. Soft-skinned types should be smooth and glossy. Hard-shelled should have firm rinds. Refrigerate all soft-skinned types and use within a few days.

Firm rind variety should be stored at room temperature. Buy squash that are hard and heavy with a dull skin.

Varieties of summer squash include chayote, patty pan, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck and zucchini.

Varieties of winter squash include acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, calabaza, delicate, golden nugget, hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumpling, turban and pumpkin.

Winter squash develops more beta carotene after being stored than it has immediately after picking.

The smallest squash are usually the tastiest.

Courgette: A variety of marrow developed to be harvested when small; also known as Italian marrow, Italian squash or zucchini.

Squash is a good source of beta carotene, one of the best antioxidants.

Squash is low in calories, fat and sodium and a good source of fiber and potassium.

Perfectly Pumpkin Food Facts

To kill bacteria and fungi on pumpkins after you’ve cut them from the vine, mix three-quarters cup bleach and one gallon water. Dip the pumpkin in the solution. Then store the pumpkin in a cool, dry place.

Most Americans carve jack-o’-lanterns from Connecticut Field pumpkins, a direct descendant of the original pumpkins grown by Native Americans.

In his 1863 poem, “When the Frost Is on the Punkin“, James Whitcomb Riley wrote, “O, it sets my heart a clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock, when the frost is on the punkin’ and the fodder’s in the shock”.

Cool Weather Vegetables

Both butternut and acorn squash are cool weather vegetables that deserve a prominent place at your table.

Butternut squash provides one and a half times your daily recommended amount of vitamin A and nearly half of vitamin C.

Acorn squash supplies nine grams of fiber and nearly one-fifth of your daily potassium.

The calories in winter squashes are similar, but butternut squash is much higher in vitamin A than either spaghetti or acorn squash. Because of its dark orange color, butternut squash is one of the best sources of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. It also contains vitamins C, E and B vitamins.

Nutrients: Acorn Squash

acorn squash1-cup cubed and cooked:

  • 82 calories
  • 6 grams fiber
  • 1,444 micrograms vitamin A
  • 31 milligrams Vitamin C
  • 582 milligrams potassium

Buying Squash

Go for smaller zucchini and squash – they are often tastier than the big ones, which can become woody and flavorless.

Nutrients: Butternut Squash

butternut squash1 cup, cubed and cooked:

  • 115 calories
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 43 micrograms vitamin A
  • 22 milligrams Vitamin C
  • 896 milligrams potassium

Low in Sodium.

All squash is low in sodium. When baked without salt, one cup of squash supplies only 8 milligrams of sodium. Adding one quarter teaspoon of salt would add approximately 575 milligrams of sodium. Seasonings that go very nicely with summer squash include cloves, curry powder, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary and sage. For winter squash, try cinnamon, garlic, nutmeg or onion.

Food Fix

Add butternut squash to your diet to help fight off colds and flu. Butternut squash is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E – all critical to maintaining a strong immune system. It also provides potassium, magnesium, fiber and more.

Sauteed Squash

Saute thinly sliced squash in extra virgin olive oil until tender. Toss with fresh mint and crumbled feta. Serve on toast topped with a poached egg.

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