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Rainbow Kitchen

When the Squashes Come Rolling In

By Allison St. Claire
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But pumpkins have many winter squash cousins that can help vary your cold-weather, healthy food choices and also add a bright decorative touch to your decor with their widely divergent shapes and colorful rinds.

It's fall and time to start thinking outside the pie -- pumpkinwise at least. Although I've rarely met anyone who didn't dive with gusto into a tasty homemade pumpkin pie, there are so many flavorful and equally or even more nutritious squash to choose from. Butternut squash, for example, contains even more vitamin A than pumpkin. And they all make great pies!

Not that pumpkin isn't a nutritional powerhouse to begin with. Just one cup has a whopping 7 grams of fiber and more potassium than a banana, plus antioxidants, high levels of vitamins B, C, E and K, and additional minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.

And then there are the seeds which pack an additional health wallop of dietary fiber and mono-saturated fatty acids for a healthy heart, more antioxidants that compare to NSAIDS in combating arthritic joint pain, and phytosterols to help lower LDL cholesterol.

And an extra bennie --- your dog or cat will enjoy a bit of pumpkin or any other winter squash added to their food. They like the taste; you'll like the benefits of how it helps them maintain bowel regularity, as well as being a weight-loss booster. You may have already noticed that high-quality pet foods now frequently contain pumpkin pulp.

But pumpkins have many winter squash cousins that can help vary your cold-weather, healthy food choices and also add a bright decorative touch to your decor with their widely divergent shapes and colorful rinds.

Start fresh. Here are a few of the more common choices for thinking outside the prepared pumpkin pie filling can, too. (And did you know, very often that's really butternut squash, not pumpkin, inside that can?)

All of these can also be used in the preparations of casseroles, pies, pancakes, custard, ravioli, bread, muffins, cookies, soup, purees, or stuffed or stand alone as an easy-to-prepare side dish.

* Blue Hokkaido. Tough blue-gray skin with bright orange flesh. Subtle sweetness and deeply nutty flavor. Excellent with nothing more than a bit of salt, pepper and butter or olive oil.

* Butternut. Sweetest winter squash, and mashes and purees best with no fibrous bits.

* Kabocha squash. Sweet and tender flesh with a slightly nutty flavor. The dense flesh holds its shape when cooked, even in liquids, which makes it perfect for using as chunks in soups or steamed dishes. Pairs well with ginger and sesame.

* Red Kuri. Deep, delicious flavor, and because it is small, is ideal for preparation in small kitchens or ovens, and for serving one or two with few, if any, leftovers. Tender skin so it need not be peeled if making soup.

* Hidatsa squash. My personal favorite since my CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share offered them the last couple of years. It's a centuries-old Native American variety with a deep, rich flavor. Just as heirloom tomatoes and other fruit and vegetable varieties seem to have a more intense taste that has not been bred out for transportation or long-storage convenience, I found myself wanting it over all other choices. It's an excellent keeper and produces well even under stress and drought. Since you're not likely to find this variety in a grocery store, Turtletreeseed.org is a good source for seeds to grow in your own garden or to give to your favorite farmer to experiment with next growing season.

Thanks to the Native American Netroots Forum (Ojibwa's food diary), try this fanciful, flavorful addition to a festive fall or holiday meal.

 


Recipe:

Traditional Native American Squash


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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

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