Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Season for Butternut Squash September – December

Butternut Squash Described

Our beloved butternut squash is easily the most common “winter squash” of our time, bringing with it a sweet and creamy, pumpkiny flavor to enliven our warm winter fare. It’s light bulb-esque shape, smooth pinkish skin and bright-orange flesh encompass a subtly sweet and nutty yet distinctively satisfying texture that – as it’s name suggests – is buttery (without the butter), pairing seamlessly with winter spices and seasonings. “Winter squash” is the generic umbrella term for a myriad of varieties of sturdy, hard-skinned squash such as acorn, pumpkins, Kabocha, Hubbard, spaghetti, Delicata… and of course butternut!

How to Buy and Store Butternut Squash

Look for rock-hard specimens that feel heavy for their size with dull rinds (the glossy ones might appeal to your aesthetic, but it means the squash is either very young or has been waxed to extend its shelf life). If the shell isn’t super hard or the skin scrapes off easily with your fingernail, the squash is either before or after its prime. If the stems are attached, dry and corky ones indicate full maturity and a good choice. Look for smooth, unblemished skin. Your butternut squash will keep for a considerable time in a dry, dark place – ranging from 1-4 months. Don’t store  your squash whole in the fridge or the freezer – but cut it into small pieces first. Otherwise it will turn to highly unsavory mush.

How to Cook Butternut Squash

Though usually prepared by removing the skin, stalk and seeds, keep in mind that the seeds are edible – either raw or roasted – and the skin too, as it softens when roasted. One of the most common ways to prepare butternut squash is roasting, as it concentrates the sweetness in the flesh. To do this, the squash is cut in half lengthwise (use those muscles!), lightly brushed with a cooking fat of your choice (check out our Oil Manifesto), and placed cut side down on a baking sheet. Generally, it needs to bake for about 45 minutes or until it is softened. It can be puréed (to make a soup) or mashed, thrown into casseroles, breads and muffins. Cubing your squash (when raw) and adding it to a roasted vegetable array is easy, healthy and a winning choice.

Here’s a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Recipe – truly an Autumn delight.

Health Benefits of Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a delicious source of complex carbohydrates and fiber that break down slowly in the body, cleaning things out as they go. Research suggests that this soluble fiber plays an important role in reducing the incidence of colon cancer. This squash is also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium and manganese, as well as folate, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamin, copper, vitamins B5 and B6, niacin and copper, as well as beta carotene which carries wonderful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make it essential for a healthy heart and body.

Want to know more? 6 Health Secrets of Winter Squash will take you there.

Why Buy Natural and Organic Butternut Squash

While butternut squash is not among the most pesticide-laden foods according to the Environmental Working Group, purchasing it organically, preferably from a farmers market, is still our preferred route – especially since we advocate eating the skins! Your squashes are likely to be cheaper at a farmers market than at a grocery store – though this is not across the board. Some 75 pesticides are established for use on winter squash, many or which have been shown to be harmful to health. The only way to ensure you’re getting a clean squash is to purchase organically. Period.

image: erin.kkr