THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wonderful Winter Squashes

Visit any Colorado farmer’s market this time of year, and you will see a wide variety of colorful and diversely shaped winter squashes. Winter squash (Curcurbita maxima) are members of the Curcurbitaceae (gourd) Family, which includes zucchini (a summer squash), cucumber, watermelon and even loofahs (Yes, the ones used for scrubbing in the shower are the skeleton of a gourd). The word "squash" comes from the Massachuset Indian word askutasquash, meaning, "eaten raw or uncooked."

What is known as
winter squash developed from wild squashes originating in an area between
Mexico and Guatemala. Squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years, and were
first cultivated for their edible seeds, as earlier squash contained less flesh
that was bitter and unpalatable. As time progressed, squash cultivation spread
throughout the Americas, and varieties with more sweet-tasting flesh developed.
Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World, and
their cultivation spread throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish
explorers.

Winter squashes are
harvested in autumn and have hard protective skins that are difficult to
pierce, which gives them a long storage life of up to six months. They also
have a hollow inner cavity that contains their seeds. Winter squashes include
acorn, banana, buttercup, delicata, Hubbard, spaghetti, turban and pumpkin.

Winter
squashes are warm, alkaline, and sweet with anti-inflammatory, energy tonic,
and immune enhancing properties. They clear toxins from the body and nourish
the stomach and spleen. Their high antioxidant content helps prevent stroke,
heart disease, and bladder, lung, skin and stomach cancers. They have been
used traditionally to improve vision and improve dry skin. Winter squashes are
very nourishing, being rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, niacin,
manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium, carbohydrates and fiber. In general,
the darker colored squashes are more nutritious than paler ones. The flowers
and seeds of all varieties are edible. The seeds are high in protein,
beta-carotene and B complex and used to protect the prostate gland and eliminate
worms.

Winter squash is not a common allergenic food, and is
not one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.

Look
for hard-skinned, firm squashes that are heavy for their size. Those with the
stem still attached will keep longer. Avoid those with any signs of decay,
which indicates mold. Squashes generally do not need to be stored in the
refrigerator. A cool, dry location away from direct light and extreme heat or
cold will suffice. Winter squash are best peeled before eaten, and this is
easier if they are first cut into segments. Cover unused pieces of winter
squash in wrap and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for one
or two more days. The best way to freeze winter squash is to first remove the
seeds, peel and cut the squash into pieces of a suitable size for recipes.

Use winter squash like pumpkins: cubed, pureed, or in soups, puddings, and pies.
Top puréed winter squash with cinnamon and maple syrup. Finely grate squashes
and dress with olive oil, grated ginger and a touch of soy sauce. Use strands
of spaghetti squash as a base for a delicious pasta sauce.

The most basic method of preparing
a winter squash is to pierce the squash near the stem with a knife to allow
steam to escape, then bake in a 400°F oven for an hour, until a knife can be
easily inserted near the stem. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds with a
spoon. Seeds can be offered to the birds or rinsed and roasted with a touch of
salt for your family.

 

Winter
Squash Soup

Here
is a way to enjoy winter squash raw – pureed it becomes tender.

1
acorn or butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped

1/2
cup raw almond butter (available at natural foods stores)

1
tablespoon Curry Powder (page 000), or a curry powder of your choice

1/2
teaspoon nutmeg

4
cups pure water

1/2
inch fresh gingerroot

1
teaspoon Celtic salt

Combine
all ingredients in a food processor and puree.

Makes
4 servings.

 

2009-09-18-BMARSsmalltwitterphoto.jpgBrigitte
Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a
nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for
over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University,
Omega, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman Holistic College of
Nutrition. She has a weekly local radio show called "Naturally" on KGNU
and a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books,
including The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas, and Rawsome!. Click here for more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at brigittemars.com.