JEFF TIEDEMAN: Winter squash a fall faveWinter squash offers versatility as well as great taste.
Another gardening season is nearly in the books. All I have left to harvest is about two rows of carrots, which we plan on picking Thursday, and four Brussels sprouts plants.
The carrot crop could be one of my best ever from what I can tell from just the few we’ve picked, but the sprouts are disappointing. Two of my four plants were ravaged by rabbits early, and the others aren’t producing like in years past. (Luckily, I have three or four vacuum-sealed bags from 2010 in the freezer.)
All in all, though, this year’s garden has been highly successful.
It’s been about four years since I’ve had more than one garden, and it’s worked out quite well. Every spring, I manage to put in all the vegetables I consider essential — tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers, carrots, beets and beans — as well the greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) and summer squash.
But each year, I seem to run out room. This year, winter squash, a fall favorite, was the loser. And that disappointed me because it not only tastes great and is versatile but is good for you. (Winter squash is an excellent source of immune-supportive vitamin A. It is also a very good source of free radical-scavenging vitamin C and manganese and heart-healthy potassium and dietary fiber. In addition, winter squash is a good source of heart-healthy folate, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, and vitamin B6; energy-producing thiamin and vitamin B5; and bone-building copper.)
Last summer, my buttercups produced nicely, and I was hoping to plant more this spring as well as some of the acorn variety. But when my last row was sown, I still had a pile of seeds from last summer’s bigger squash.
So now, I have to buy some squash at the supermarket. And fortunately, Loren Kartes, produce manager at the East Grand Forks Hugo’s where I shop, said he will be getting his last shipment — about 1,000 pounds — of home-grown buttercups today. And it’s only 68 cents per pound. (For buying and other tips, go to www.grandforksherald.com/ event/ tag/ group/ Life/tag/food/.)
My favorite way to prepare winter squash is to cut them in half (rinsed first under cold water) and bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet for about an hour. I then scoop out the squash from the shell and add a little butter. You also can peel winter squash, cut it into 1-inch cubes and steam for about 7 minutes.
And I don’t throw away the seeds. They make great snack food just like pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Once scooped out from inside the squash and separated from the pulp, you can place the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160 to 170 degrees in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
There aren’t that many other vegetables that can offer so much for so little.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.