2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-22 03:30
Colorful, luscious and sometimes intimidating, winter squash may catch our eye at the market, but it rarely ends up in our baskets. To better tame and prepare them, here is some practical information.
Pumpkin and company
Squashes are divided into two main families. First, there are summer squash (e.g. zucchini, squash) which are picked before maturity, in summer, and whose flesh is soft. Then there are winter squash, larger vegetables, which are picked when ripe. Their flesh is firm and thanks to their thicker and tougher skin, it is possible to store them for a very long time.
Sometimes squat and flared, sometimes elongated and elegant, going from dark green to orange, winter squashes are real seducers. There is an incredible variety with sometimes very funny names: Lady Godiva, Peppered squash, Spaghetti squash, Pink jumbo banana, Aladdin's Turban, Potimarron, Galeuse D'Eysines, Amber flower, etc. From the end of August and throughout the fall, these beautiful colorful vegetables shine in our fields. And thanks to imports, some varieties are available year-round, such asthis is the case for Butternut and Spaghetti squash.
Very rich in vitamin A
The beautiful orange color of the flesh of winter squash reveals a high content of beta-carotene, a compound that the body converts into vitamin A. This versatile vitamin plays several important roles in the maintenance of good he alth. First, it contributes to the normal development of bones and teeth. Also, it facilitates vision in the dark, promotes the maintenance of the skin in good condition and protects against infections. Winter squash also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants known to protect against age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Finally, the flesh of winter squash provides a good dose of carbohydrates, the body's favorite fuel.
Tips for buying and storing
According to Louise Gagnon, author of the book “Under the charm of squash and pumpkins”, it is best to opt for the darkest, orange or colored squash. And, preferably, choose medium-sized winter squash, depending on their variety, neither too big (sometimes too fibrous) nor too small (sometimes tasteless).
Even though winter squash looks hardy, they should be handled with care. Avoid grabbing them by the peduncle (stem) so as not to damage them and thus reduce their shelf life. Also, be aware that winter squash continues to develop its flavors and flavor.flavor during the first months following their harvest, hence the interest of waiting a little between the purchase of freshly harvested squash and their use. Phew! Visiting squash growers in the fall with the kids is a fun and educational family adventure.
Winter squash can be stored in a cool place and ideally not in the fridge. They can thus be kept for several weeks or even months for the most imposing varieties. They can certainly be kept at room temperature, but their shelf life will be much shorter.
Preparing and cooking
To cut a winter squash, first use a very sharp knife. Occasionally, agility and strength will not be denied, especially for the toughest squash. Once cut in half or quarters depending on the size, remove the filaments and seeds using a spoon or your hands. To facilitate the preparation, you can then cut the squash into several quarters and if necessary, peel it.
Louise Gagnon's trick!If you have a squash with an extremely tough skin, like the Hubbard squash, put it in a bag to avoid damage and let it fall to the ground and smash (this is especially effective on a concrete surface)
Winter squash can be cooked in many ways: baked, in liquid, and steamed. For example, to make tasty creamy soups, calculate about 15 to 20 minutes for cooking your cubesof squash. To cook in the oven, place the squash pieces, cut side down, on a baking sheet (covered or not with parchment paper), then cook at 375°F (190°C) for at least 30-45 minutes. Obviously, the larger the squash and the tougher their skins, the longer the cooking times will be. For example, you can count around 90 minutes for the blue Hubbard.
Spaghetti squash: everyone's friend
To jazz up the traditional spaghetti, replace the pasta with spaghetti squash. The mild and sweet flavor of this squash is very popular with children, while its low caloric content is a delight for mothers. By replacing pasta with spaghetti squash, you save nearly 200 calories per cup (250 ml). To prepare the spaghetti squash, first cut it in half lengthwise. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Then, using a fork, scrape the filaments so that they come off like spaghetti. Add your favorite sauce and voila!
An unknown world of possibilities
The flesh of winter squash is extremely versatile. You can incorporate it into both sweet and savory dishes, from breakfast to dinner, including nutritious snacks. Muffins, soups, cookies, stews, purées, dips… everyone will enjoy rubbing shoulders with the creamy flesh of winter squash. You can even cook sticks in the oven, great for kids. And this year, notquestion of throwing your pumpkin! Collect it to prepare tasty Sister Berthe cookies.
If you are fascinated by the world of cucurbits, you must get your hands on Louise Gagnon's book "Under the charm of squashes and pumpkins", published by Éditions de L'Homme. The author plays the "matchmaker" by presenting us, with humor, the personalities of 24 squash and 75 light or amusingly gourmet recipes. Butternut squash macaroni, pumpkin seed pesto with sage, Marina Di Chioggia squash and chickpea soup, cold zucchini, mint and kefir soup… enough to seduce our taste buds!
You can also visit the Squash Interpretation Center.
By Julie DesGroseilliers, Dt. P.
Nutritionist and spokesperson for the I love 5 to 10 a day campaign