Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health
Purchasing vegetables that are in season is a great way to save on your grocery bill. Winter squash such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti and pumpkin is available from August through March; however, they are at their peak from October to November when they are in season. But winter squash are not only economical, they are deliciously rich in nutrition.

About one cup of cooked winter squash provides:*

  • An excellent source of Vitamin A, most in the form of beta carotene. Vitamin A is vital for healthy vision and the antioxidant beta carotene helps fight cancer-causing free radicals.
  • An excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of potassium.
  • An excellent source of fiber!

*Nutrient levels are an average for winter squash varieties. Individual nutrient levels may vary.

Storage
Winter squash all share the common characteristic of a tough outer shell that makes it difficult to cut through. This allows the squash to be stored for an extended period of time.

Preparation
Preparation is easy and can be done several ways; here are two ways I like to prepare a winter squash.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash squash well, pierce with a fork all around the squash – wrap in aluminum foil, place on a baking dish and bake in the oven for about one hour; more time may be needed for a very large squash. Your squash is ready when the shell is soft to the touch.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Place the squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Coat the cut sides lightly with nonstick spray. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Selection

  • Choose squash that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy, rinds.
  • The rind should be hard – soft rinds may indicate that the squash is watery and lacking in flavor.
  • Avoid those with any blemishes or signs of decay.
  • Winter squash should be kept away from direct exposure to light.
  • The ideal temperature for storing winter squash is between 50 to 60 degrees.

Did you know?

  • Squash are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Western Hemisphere. Seeds found in Mexico have been dated to 8,000 B.C.E.
  • Squash were originally cultivated for their seeds, as early varieties did not contain much flesh and were very bitter.
  • Besides the fruit (the squash itself), other edible parts of squash plants include the seeds (eaten whole, toasted, ground into paste or pressed for oil); shoots, leaves and tendrils (eaten as greens); and blossoms (used for cooking and decoration).

Acorn squash are especially delicious. Try this hearty acorn squash recipe on a cool fall evening.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total Cook time: 50 minutes
Makes: 4 (1/2 stuffed squash) Servings
Ingredients

  • 2 acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped and seeds removed
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley and thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ cups cooked whole wheat couscous
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the squash, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Coat the cut sides lightly with nonstick spray. Bake for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender.
2. Meanwhile, warm the oil in a medium nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broccoli and parsley and thyme. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.
3. Remove from heat. Add the couscous to the mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste, stir until combined.
4. Return skillet to medium heat and ADD the broth, cook until stuffing begins to bind together, about 5 minutes.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Spoon the stuffing into the squash halves, top each squash half with one-half ounce cheese. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
Nutrition Facts
350 Calories
3g Fat
2g Saturated Fat
9mg Cholesterol
168mg Sodium
67g Carbohydrate
21g Fiber
12g Protein

 

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