November 2011
Home Grown Tomatoes

Cooking All Those Winter Squashes!

 

There are lots of uses for winter squash. A late harvest of pumpkins, squash and gourds can be used for decorations and tasty/healthy side dishes.

Last month, a Facebook friend posted a picture of some gray pumpkins she grew and asked everyone for recipe suggestions. That set my mind into motion and I went through some of mine I have written and tried over the years.

Pumpkins are considered to be in the winter squash category, along with acorn, butternut, buttercup, Lakota, Cushaw and spaghetti squash.

Winter squash is grown during the summer and, unlike its summer squash counterpart, is generally harvested in late summer and, because of its tough skin. it is stored for use during the winter months.

Winter squash keeps very well in cool ventilated areas. The ideal temperature for storage after they are cured is 50 to 60°. If your storage area is warmer than that, be sure to spread them in a single layer and ventilate in order to prevent gas pockets from forming and rapidly over-ripening the squash. Warmer temperatures will reduce the storage times considerably. A relative humidity of 50 to 75 percent should be maintained as well.

This year has been a great year for pumpkin, squash and gourd production. In fact, Halloween carving pumpkins were low enough in price you could afford to buy several for what you paid for one pumpkin last year. Winter squash yields here at the Tomato Tower were high and I have been using squash in most every meal this fall!

Turn your medium-sized pumpkin into a centerpiece serving bowl for winter squash soup; or peel your pumpkin, cut it into 1-inch chunks and fry like a hushpuppy.

 

Here are a few ideas for how to prepare your winter squashes for meals and snacks. I have cubed them and added them to soups and even sweet cobblers. They can also be a tasty, sweet or savory, ‘stands-alone’ side dish, depending on how you season them. Additionally, depending on how big the seed cavity is, acorn squash and small pumpkins can make a cool-looking serving dish for soups or dips. To make a serving dish, lop off the top, exposing the seed cavity. Remove the seeds and seed strings; then scrape the sides of your squash with a spoon to remove any remaining loose material. Fill with your favorite soup and serve. If you are looking to make a creative dip container for your football party, do the same as with your soup bowl, add your favorite dip and serve with sweet potato and butternut squash chips.

I also like to shred them and fry them with potatoes when I make hash browns. Simply run the peeled squash pieces through your vegetable shredder along with your potatoes and fry them. Make haystacks with your butternut squash and potato shreds by deep frying them until crispy and golden brown.

Sweet potato latkes are especially good when you add winter squash to your shreds.

For a healthy alternative to French fries, peel and cut your pumpkin or squash into French fry-sized pieces. Batter the pieces in buttermilk and dredge them in a baking mix like Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free, all-purpose baking flour. Fry at 375° until golden brown. Dust with chili powder or seasoned salt to taste.

Butternut or acorn squash makes a good dessert dish as well. Cut, peel and seed the squash. Slice into one-inch chunks and roast in the oven until fork tender. Add butter, sugar and cinnamon to taste, then mash with potato masher or puree in blender. Serve warm on white cake, ice cream or on toast instead of jelly.

 

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Pumpkin carving isn’t just for Halloween either. Make an attractive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving feast or football party by carving an appropriate scene on your pumpkin. How about bare trees, fallen leaves, harvest moon or a turkey? A football, helmet or team logo would look good carved on a pumpkin. There are many templates and ideas available online.

There are many more ideas for what to do with your winter squash harvest. So, go ahead and be creative. Send me your thoughts and recipes. I’d enjoy trying them.

For more information on what to do with your winter squash, e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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