BUTTERNUT SQUASH: Doesn’t the name just sound delightful? In the history of our other crops, I’ve often talked about where we imported them from, but this week’s crop started right here. Modern day squash developed from the wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their seeds since earlier squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter and unpalatable. As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World, and like many other native American foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. In fact, this vegetable was once such an important part of the diet of the Native Americans that they buried it along with the dead to provide them nourishment on their final journey.
However, like all members of the gourd family (which includes pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), butternut squash is another of those veggies that is technically a fruit.
Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida.
The butternut squash’s beautiful color though shows it’s most noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, it boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a supporter of healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. What’s more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.
As if this weren’t enough, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content. Incorporating more of this hearty autumn/winter staple into your diet could help reduce risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
Butternut squash is one of the healthiest vegetables for losing weight with its low calories and high levels of dietary fiber. There’s around 6 grams of primarily insoluble fiber in a cup of steamed squash and eating them is known to be especially beneficial for relieving digestive problems such as constipation.
And in spite of their rich and buttery taste, butternut squash is very low in calories. They’re only around 75 calories in one cup, which makes them one of the ‘negative calorie’ foods considered so good for weight loss.
And the best news, butternut squash store well; this hardy squash can be kept for up to three months in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate. The hardest part as you could imagine is trying to figure out how to get into your squash but here is some help for this conundrum!
Cutting Your Giant Oddly Shaped Butternut Squash:
Halving the squash: Start with a large, sharp knife. Start by cutting across and removing the stem. Turn the squash so the cut end is facing away from you, and insert the tip of your knife straight down into the center , keeping it stable with your free hand. Press the handle of the knife down until you cut through the bottom half. Turn the squash 180 degrees and insert the knife into the center again, repeating the technique in step 2 to halve the squash, completely halving the squash so that you can scoop out the seeds.
To cut into smaller pieces: Again, you want to start with a sharp knife. Cut off the stem and bottom ends of the squash so both ends are flat. Slice the squash in half, just where the thinner end begins to widen. Use a heavy-duty peeler to peel away the skin. If you notice green streaks remaining on the squash as you peel, peel those away as well until only orange flesh remains (they can be a little tough). Cut the larger end in half and spoon out the seeds. Cut each piece into 1-inch-thick sticks then slice into 1-inch cubes. You can make the cubes larger if you like.
And don’t forget the seeds!!!
How to Roast Butternut Squash Seeds: Remove pulp and threads from seeds. Simmer seeds in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Toss seeds with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Roast in a 325 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
7-8 cups, peeled chunks of peeled butternut squash
4 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp coriander
salt and pepper
Combine squash, broth, onion, curry powder, ginger and coriander in a large pot. Bring to a boil on high heat; reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer 40 minutes. Add more broth if needed. Puree in food processor or blender in small batches until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH CHIPS
1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Peel squash then cut in half. Scoop the seeds out. Cut the squash into 1/8″ slices using a mandoline slicer. In a large bowl, toss butternut squash slices with olive oil, herbs and sea salt until evenly coated. Spread slices in a single layer over two baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 3 hours, turning twice. After 3 hours turn off oven, leaving chips to cool in oven for 6 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.
MORE BUTTERNUT SQUASH RECIPES: Butternut Squash Pancakes, Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto, Squash and Sage Biscuits, Maple Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash, “Better Than Pumpkin” Butternut Squash Pie, Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup, Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese and Sage, Squash and Ricotta Toasts, Caramelized Butternut Squash