Cheeks are getting rosy, there is crispness in the air, and our eyes are being dazzled by the colors of the season. Yes, fall fans, Squashtober has arrived. Let’s hear it for some of the last local produce of the season, the totally underrated, utterly awesome squashes. I have to admit I get excited when I see giant bins piled with pumpkins, acorns, butternuts, and delicatas arrive at my grocer. To me squash is like a warm cozy vegetable sweater that makes me glad that fall is here.
Although squash seems to handle its unbecoming name with a tough skinned approach, it really has another much more sophisticated title that it rarely brags about, Cucurbita. You pronounce it cuke-curb-bit-uh, with emphasis on the curb. I don’t know why they picked the name squash, it elicits no brilliant or glorious visions whatsoever, but regardless, it is a seriously genius genus. Imagine a vegetable that can last for six months without refrigeration. We may owe our very human existence to this life-sustaining plant. Lets face it, even the pioneers in America planned a holiday to celebrate it with pumpkin pie and mashed squash, probably because they were so grateful for its ability to get them through the harsh winters. (See what I mean by vegetable sweater?) It can brag that it’s the first domesticated produce, going as far back as eight-thousand years ago. In addition, its robust contribution to good nutrition is a great reason to be number one in the history books.
Squash nutrition is unquestionably excellent. Like its ability to grow to one-hundred pounds, if you let it, it has a hefty resume. Full of very substantial nutrients, “Cucurbita have phytochemical constituents such as alkaloids, flavonoids, and acids (palmitic, oleic, and linoleic). Animal and in vitro experiments suggest that pumpkins have anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory pharmacological properties. Pumpkin seeds have high levels of crude protein, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and beta-carotene. Cucurbita are good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, folic acid, and iron. They are free of cholesterol.”*
We tend to think of squash as a very starchy vegetable. It’s true that this is a carbohydrate-rich food, but it is composed of a valuable variety of starch, polysaccharides, whose pectin components are the very ones that provide the anti-inflammatory effects that are so beneficial. So embrace the Cucurbita, (if you say it that way people will think it’s some very chic new culinary find.) Mash it, roast it, bake it, saute it, but whatever you do, eat it! The best way to enjoy the autumnal Cucurbita, is to check out the dishes Salty’s chefs are serving:
- Manila Clams Pasta with bucatini, roasted Hubbard squash, preserved lemon, smashed tomatoes (available through October 28 or try the recipe at home).
- Candied Blue Hubbard Squash with mascarpone and candied pistachios (available through October 30).
- Find more recipes in Salty’s Chef Jeremy’s blog Here to Squash Your Doubts!