What’s in Season: Squash

Even though the days are shorter and the skies are bleaker, Ontario still has so many gorgeous veggies for you to enjoy. The hearty, and delicious comfort of squash is exactly what we need to fill our bellies on the long winter days that are coming our way.

Our next featured family is winter squash! Some varieties like butternut and acorn are quite common, but there are so many different kinds that grow in our province. Get ready to learn a little more about them!

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Squash History: The Three Sisters

Being one of Canada’s oldest and most important crops it comes as no surprise that squashes still represent one of our most produced vegetables, with over 23,000 tonnes grown in 2010 across our fair lands. Just think of all that pumpkin pie!

Let’s dig up those roots and hear a little more about their golden days. The Iroquois considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable sisters. They planted the three crops together to create more nutritious, sustainable soil with an exchange of nutrients between them. The smart strategies of the Iroquois passed on healthier growing land for many generations, including ours!

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Three Sisters Garden (Image: University of Minnesota)

Here’s a list of some popular and  not-so-familiar types of squash too!

Acorn:

Ryerson_Food_Services_Ryerson_Eats_go_local_Whats_in_Season_Acorn_Squash_

Delicata:

Ryerson_Food_Services_Ryerson_Eats_go_local_Whats_in_Season_Delicata_Squash

Butternut:

Ryerson_Food_Services_Ryerson_Eats_go_local_Whats_in_Season_Butternut_Squash

Other major Ontario varieties are

  • Waltham
  • Buttercup
  • Royal Acorn
  • Hubbard (Golden, Blue and Green)
  • Hercules
  • Boston Marrow.
  • Festival
  • Kabocha (japanese)
  • Pumpkin
  • Spaghetti
  • Red Kuri
Gorgeous illustrations of common squash varieties! (Illustration: The Curious Kitchen)

Gorgeous illustrations of common squash varieties! (Illustration: The Curious Kitchen)

Let’s take a closer look at some of these varieties!

This one is called Spaghetti Squash.

Ever wonder why?

Spaghetti squash growing on the vine (Photo: Chubeza)

Spaghetti squash growing on the vine (Photo: Chubeza)

Crack it open, throw it in the oven and you will see the beautiful strands of pulling apart like spaghetti!

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Inside the squash are spaghetti-like strands! (Photo: Foods for Long Life)

This is a nice switch up to a typical squash or potato side dish you may be familiar with. You can find this squash at your local grocery store for only 99 cents/lb. To add to the excitement, this hearty vegetable is very low in calories and carbohydrates, leaving you satisfied with room for pie!

Cooking spaghetti squash is as easy as 1-2-3…

  1. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake it for 30 minutes at 400℉.
  2. Grab a spoon or fork  and scrape out the stringy flesh.
  3. Add in butter, sauce or your favourite toppings… the options are endless!
Add something delicious on top of your spaghetti squash! (Photo: Nourish the Roots)

Add something delicious on top of your spaghetti squash! (Photo: Nourish the Roots)

As you can see there’s a lot more to squash than meets the eye. In fact, squash can be very important for our eyes.

  • One cup of cubed roasted Hubbard squash can provide as much as 72% of the daily vitamin A required for adult men and 93% required for adult women
  • Vitamin A is necessary for proper vision and the workings of the eye, including the production of tears. Without adequate vitamin A you can lose your sight entirely!
  • Vitamin A is also imperative for gene expression, reproduction, growth and immune function
  • One important fact to remember over the holidays is that vitamin A storage is impaired by alcohol consumption. Moderation is key! ; )

So the next time you’re yearning for a bowl of comfort food (as we do in the winter, a.k.a, all the time), whether it be macaroni and cheese, risotto, or even a chicken quinoa salad, why not add some roasted cubed squash?  It will add great flavour and do that body good!

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Did you know? The roasted seeds of pumpkins and squashes (a.k.a. pepitas) can serve up 100% of the daily recommended intake of magnesium for adult women and 79% for adult men, in just a ¼ cup! Magnesium is essential for the development and maintenance of bone and calcified tissue. A diet low in magnesium is linked with muscle cramps, facial tics, poor sleep, and chronic pain.

If you’re itching for something to do this winter break why not wobble over to your closest fresh market and take a gander at the multitudes of different cucurbita (that’s the phylogenetic name for the squash family!). With all the variety available in Ontario alone, you could start your own community kitchen or even a pumpkin pie factory!

In the meantime, here’s a delicious recipe for Butternut Squash Curry (yes you heard us!) by none other than our very own Joshna Maharaj:

Butternut Squash Curry
A Recipe by Joshna Maharaj, Assistant Director & Executive Chef of Ryerson Food Services

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Whole dried red chilies, to taste
4-5 fresh curry leaves
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large butternut squash, peeled, guts scooped out and chopped into a 1-inch dice
Salt, to taste
1 small handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat ghee or oil to high in medium saucepot. Add mustard seeds, then chiles and curry leaves and stand back! The mixture will splutter, but this is what you want.
  2. Add the onions and cook until just lightly browned, then add garlic and stir to combine. Cook until onions become translucent.
  3. Add squash, making sure not to crowd the pan. (If you’ve doubled the recipe, do this in batches to get the best results!). Season with salt and stir to combine and coat squash pieces with masala mixture. Cover and reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until squash is tender and fragrant. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. It’s ok if the squash gets mashed together – That’s the beauty of this curry.
  5. Garnish with coriander and serve.

And if you find yourself on or around campus over the next two weeks, stop by the Hub Café! We’ll be featuring so many scrumptious go local items on our menu featuring your new favourite vegetable!

Keep your eye out for the following dishes:

  • buttercup squash strudel (today’s #friendlyfiver at the Hub!)
  • squash apple soup
  • pasta with squash cream and hazelnuts
  • ginger squash soup
  • veggie pot pie with a pumpkin biscuit topping
  • zucchini apple cream soup
  • maple pumpkin soup

Click here for the Ryerson Eats Holidays Hours. Wishing you a squash filled, healthy, and happy holiday!

A few more for the road:

A bucket of squash! (Photo: Sammy Tangir)

A whole bucket of Rye’s HomeGrown squash! (Photo: Sammy Tangir)

Big thanks to the Greenbelt Fund for their support of this program!

 

Categories: go local: What's In Season, Ontario?, golocal, What's In Season

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