Colorful Cellar-ful of Winter Squash

Frugal Locavore

Colorful Cellar-ful of Winter Squash

By Anna Thomas Bates | Photo By Anna Thomas Bates 0

If you eat seasonally, bid farewell to soft green lettuce, sweet bell peppers and ripe, juicy tomatoes. The season of the root cellar has begun.

If you practice preservation, you may have a pantry or freezer stocked with local fruits and veggies—most likely tomatoes, pickles, jams and some hardy greens. If you’ve figured out how to preserve lettuce into the fall/winter, let me know—you’re a genius.

But I have to believe this happens for a reason…I can’t get local lettuce in the winter (with exceptions for indoor and hydroponic), but as the weather gets chilly, I don’t really want any. I believe the body is in synergy with the seasons. During this time of coldness and darkness, the rich orange hued squashes and other root cellar beauties offer something our bodies need.

A warm, starchy squash, accompanied by a hearty braised green, is long on comfort and nutrition. The offerings of the root cellar (carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and my favorite, winter squash) when paired with aromatic spices and some fat, feel just right.

To bulk out your own root cellar next season, consider adding winter squash to your garden plan. They meander and vine through a growing space, but you can employ space-saving strategies like choosing bush varieties and trellises. Luckily, even if you are not able to grow your own, local squash is plentiful and reasonably priced this time of year. So stock up!

I invested a fair amount of garden space in winter squash this growing season. I wouldn’t have guessed a local squash would have much of an edge over what’s available at the grocery store, but if you slice open a store-bought squash next to one grown in your own garden, you will notice a difference. My butternuts are a deep orange hue and have a more pleasant texture and concentrated taste when prepared.

Another benefit to growing your own is that a greater palette of squash are available as seed. In addition to butternuts and delicatas, I grew an heirloom Hubbard and my current old-fashioned favorite, the Potimarron, also known as red kuri squash.

The Potimarron is flame orange, almost reddish, and medium-sized. It has a vibrant orange interior and the flavor is kissed with the scent of chestnuts. They are very popular in France, and I first stumbled on a recipe for them in Dori Greenspan’s Around my French Table. Seed Savers Exchange carries the seeds.

Besides the knockout flavor and color, my favorite attribute is that the skin is edible. No awkward peeling or weird dried squashy residue on your fingers. Just slice, scoop out the seeds, and roast. The skin is super thin, adds a little texture and looks pretty.

Winter Squash cooking ideas:

  • Use roasted puree to stand in when a recipe calls for canned pumpkin—winter squash is often sweeter.
  • Dice small and add to soups for extra color and flavor.
  • Medium dice squash and roast with apples and bits of bacon. Put soft roasted vegetables in a stock pot, add broth and lightly mash for a simple soup.
  • Add a cup of squash puree to macaroni and cheese for extra fiber and nutrition.
  • And my favorite, coconut squash curry. There are lots of recipes out there, here’s my take on a Winter Weeknight Curry.
Anna Thomas Bates is a freelance writer, food blogger and mom of two young boys living in Albany, Wis. She moved to Wisconsin 14 years ago, and after visiting the Dane County Farmers Market and camping at Newport State Park, she's never looked back. If you can't find her weeding the garden or playing bulldozer mechanic in the living room, she's probably in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. Find more information and seasonal recipes at her blog, TallgrassKitchen.com.

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