—by Hans and Katie Dahl, HPC members
The autumn colors are fading and the recent snow and cold has brought winter upon us. Most garden delights have long since been consumed, but a variety of winter squash often remains this time of year. Historically, winter squash’s popularity is due to its unique storability. Unlike summer squash, winter squash was not grown in North America before European colonization. It wasn’t until the early to mid–1800s that it made its way from South America and found particular popularity with the northern settlers. Winter squash will store at room temperature for at least a month, or can be stored for several months in a dry and cool (50–55 degrees) but not cold location. Squash’s durability provided those early northern settlers with a flexible winter storage food that would provide sustenance throughout harsh winters.
Seeing a bin of winter squash at the local farmers’ market or co-op, one quickly notices that they come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and textures, with names such as butternut, hubbard, buttercup, and acorn. Though their packaging is quite diverse, most winter squash are similar on the edible inside—orange or green in color, mild and sweet in taste. Their excellent storage capability and nutritive value make winter squash a wonderful fall and winter vegetable for the seasonal eater. Winter squash has ten times the vitamin A content of its summer squash relatives and is also an excellent source of potassium, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. This sweet vegetable, mouthwatering warm when cooked, is a great treat that will warm its way into your heart and stomach as these first flakes of winter begin to fly.
(Find information on other seasonal vegetables in From Asparagus to Zucchini by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition.)