On winter squash…in winter

Congratulations!  8lb, 1oz and 18 1/2″ long…pink banana squash!

One astute commenter noted that my family’s probably not hurting for Vitamin A in our diets, what with the monster winter squash harvest this year.  And it’s true, we’re awash in the things.  It’s okay, really it is, especially since the school garden’s squash patch was a bust (deer predation) so I have a…somewhat willing population to whom I can feed the things.  AND:  happily:  all our animals (except T-bell the goat) eat squash.

Surprisingly easy to slice, especially when you have a great hand-made chopper like this one

I do love squash, always have.  But I find that, as a gardener, my esteem of any one vegetable goes up or down in direct proportion to how well it grows for me.  Squash is quite the flatterer, so…I love it.  I’ve got a very fox-and-the-grapes attitude about things that don’t grow so well for me (i.e.,”bah, Brussels sprouts, who needs ’em) and it proves to me that if nothing else I am terribly…human.

The now-indispensable food mill.  Usually reserved for separating tomatoes from their seeds and peels, and stewed whole apples during the saucing sessions, I realized how handy this thing was once I killed my immersion blender.  It’s now out all the time, especially to cream hot soups and hot squash.  And, unlike the damned hand-held stick blender, I could never break this thing.

But my family is on the “likes” squash part of the spectrum:  it ain’t “love.”  I therefore only feed them one squash per week, if that.  Mostly, we love creamy squash soup (with a splash of curry), but it also finds its way into baked goods.  Only butternut is tolerated in other forms (pan-roasted, say; or candied) and luckily I planted plenty of those, too.

5 cups of puree for us people!  The basement worms get the skins, the poultry and bunnies vie for the seeds and pulp…a true no-waste food.

Sunday, though, I brought out one of the pink bananas.  They were one of the first escape artists of the squash patch (up and over the fence, 16′ away) and one plant put out, what, three squash total of similar size to this one.  They’re really easy to cut up (bonus!) and I found the chickens and turkeys appreciated the seeds and pulp if I chopped it for them.  I baked these, cut-side down, arranged diagonally across my two largest rimmed cookie sheets.  Scooped, run through the food mill, and sweet!  Its great advantage appears to be its readiness to be cut into rings, and baked a la most acorn squash.  It did take a bit longer to fruit out than many of the other winter squash I had, and Fedco says it is not terribly reliable in really short summer areas but, well…if you like winter squash, you might want to try to grow this one this year.

13 responses to “On winter squash…in winter

  1. Funny, I did almost the exact same routine last night with a pumpkin – skins went to the worms, seeds and pulp set aside for the girls (they got them with their breakfast this morning), and flesh for us. I made pasta with pumpkin, sage butter, parmesan, white pepper, and a little cream. It’s probably the only pasta we eat that doesn’t contain garlic. But this dish doesn’t benefit from garlic. For some reason I have this weird aversion to pureed squash soup. I can’t figure it out, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to just make a batch and jazz it up with spices I like. I know I have to get there though: I’ve still got about eight pumpkins left, plus a couple other squash hanging around.

  2. I do love a good pink banana squash, I bought a HUGE one last year for only $2. It fed us for weeks!

    I really need to get a worm bin for the basement *sigh*.

  3. We love the winter squashes this year as well. Mine did very poorly this summer, usually they are amazingly prolific. The worm bin is something I need to get as well. The chickens get the pulp and seeds, but the peels go into the compost. We’re big fans of pumpkin muffins here, I use most winter squashes interchangeably for those.

  4. El – do you feed them to the chicken raw or cooked?

    I use winter squash also in stews and mixed with mashed potatoes (or as replacement) to make shepherds-like pies.

  5. Nice review. With the rain today, Mr. Butternut in the kitchen is probably going to end up roasted. Yum. Only a few of us like it, oddly enough, so we get most of it. I’m not complaining at all!

    And the fox-and-grapes thing is a perfect description of a lot of gardening, I think. It’s too potentially heartbreaking to desperately want to grow what one can’t easily, when there are so many delicious and beautiful plants that want to cooperate.

  6. Ohmygosh! We have that very same food mill. Doesn’t the handle just kill after awhile? It does me.

  7. I grow smaller buttercups so I don’t have to use so much at once. Chickens get skin and seeds (baked or boiled on wood stove).

  8. Oy, I had an acorn squash for super last night. I do like them hugely. I suppose we should branch out into other squashes (than butternut, acorn, and Kabocha), but we harvested about 40 squashes last fall. How many more do two people need? I’d probably eat a squash 2-3 times a week happily, but my wife would leave me!

    Off-topic, I’m now reading David Kessler’s End of Overeating…. I knew food companies engineered the foods they produce, but I didn’t realize how sophisticated and complicated (and intentional) the whole thing was. I notice that Kessler hasn’t yet used the word “nutrition” in his book (I’m 1/3 the way thru it). And I appreciate so much more now Michael Pollan’s emphasis on processed “foods” not being real foods. They are just chemical combinations on carbohydrate substrates designed to appeal to us thru every sense. “Adult baby food” one person called them. I judge it’s not possible to get nutritious food in any chain restaurant. Though local mom-and-pop restaurants often do provide simpler, non-engineered foods.

  9. That is one fine specimen.

    My small golden apple squash thrived, but the larger ones did poorly. I will try again this year.

    I love the versatility of squash. I have made waffles, cookies, muffins, and today Thai soup.

  10. Kate, good luck getting over the squash soup thing. Maybe it doesn’t need to be pureed? With butternut, I tend to peel, seed, cube and then throw them in a pot with butter and onion and celery…thus just letting them cook down; throw in water or broth and it’s stew. I don’t know, it’s all good. The girl is sick today so maybe she and I will get out the pasta machine and make some noodles with the squash; orange is a great color! Maybe in a brown butter/sage sauce…mmm.

    Suzy, I think the worms are great. OH: and here’s the funny thing: they were a Valentine’s day gift to my hubby about 5 years ago. Nothing says I Love You like a box in the mail full of worms! And: once you have them, you always will; we’ve given away quite a lot of them.

    Hiya Mom, yeah, get some worms, they’re fun. I agree with you; I use the squashes pretty much interchangeably too…and what’s funny is I made muffins right after I typed this up, so we must’ve been thinking alike! I made a kind of gingerbread-y thing with caramelized ginger and molasses and buttermilk…tasty. Maybe too tasty as my jeans are getting tight 😉

    Sylvie, yeah, they’re great with mashed potatoes too! I will have to try that as a shepherd’s pie topping. Mmm.

    Stef, well I certainly won’t be trying to jump for growing some citrus here (lemon jealous)…that would be dangerous, but you’re quite right about gardening, sometimes. I also think gardening, frankly, takes time to master. Though it is rather foolish of me to continually try to grow cauliflower and Brussels sprouts…though maybe I will tuck a few plants in the greenhouses to see if they fare better there. What can it hurt, except my garden ego.

    Paula, hah! I guess I did say I couldn’t kill the mill, but left out that yeah it could kill us! Luckily it works in both directions. But yeah, sometimes, like all of this, it’s a bit of work.

    ej, magic word: woodstove! sighsighsigh. Ah well, one day. And: aren’t they lucky birds?

    Dennis, yeah, if you have a successful year with squash you better have some squash-loving friends to share them with…like I just dropped off two squash at school, two squash that probably weighed 45-50 pounds. I heard Dr. Kessler on Diane Rehm this fall, I think it was, talking about that book of his, and about his problem with eating, period. He seemed to really have a compulsion and you just gotta wonder if his wiring is just wrong to eat that way. I think it’s great though that he’s writing and lecturing about it: I don’t think people really have a clue. AND I do think the food companies would figure out how to make us eat food we don’t even have to chew, so the adult-pablum thing is spot-on. Though I suppose soft drinks fit the bill!

    Mangocheeks, I was drooling over that Thai soup this morning!!! It looked so creamy and dreamy. Some years, squash just do well. I think the trick is always more compost than you think they can tolerate.

  11. I steam my squash…just peel,cube and steam until tender. Then mash. I’m not too fond of baked squash; always seems dry. I do alot of bags of squash for the freezer already mashed. Understand you can can squash if you do it in chunks and, of course,pressured canned.

    Unfortunately, we have a devil of a time growing squash in MO–squash bugs are horrible. When we lived in MI we used to grow enormous Hubbards and Buttercups. We’ve tried every home remedy for the bugs with minimal sucess. Each year we ponder getting out big guns but we prefer to stay organic so get our squash at the health food store–would you believe we can barely grow a few zucchini!!!! Where are all the people who are trying to pawn it off on their friends????? DEE

    • Oh Dee I swear each year is a hit or miss with the flipping squash bugs. One year (only 2 years ago) they were horrific. I really just need to get on top of watching for the egg sacs: one colony a plant can handle, two will doom it. AND, I need to get away from their preferred food, yellow summer squash. Once they find THAT then the rest is invaded too. So this year I was really successful because I made sure I did three things: 1. have healthy plants (i.e., I pulled anyone who looked like they were struggling, really early) and 2. TONS of compost to keep those plants healthy, and 3. even though I hate it, check for squash bug eggs daily. It worked. Here’s hoping it will for you, too. They’re easy to kill in the early morning; they’re too sluggish to move, and they always hang out where the plant hits the dirt. But yeah if you lived closer you’d have a few snuck onto your doorstep!

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