by Cat, Nov 2013 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Topics in this article: 1. Health benefits of winter squash; 2. How to recognize a ripe squash
While winter squash and pumpkins are considered a vegetable when planning meals, they are technically a fruit (because they produce the seed). You will find my winter squash recipes in the category of ‘vine veggies’ (along with tomatoes, peppers, summer squash and cucumbers).
Thy are great for winter storage in a cold place that is not too humid. As science continues to explore and learn about the health benefits of different foods, I believe squash will be high on the list of healthful foods.
They are rich in nutrients, and not just beta-carotene. Other carotenoids in abundance in squash are alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin, all of which have antioxidant activity. (1)
They are also rich in important starches, making them a ‘good’ hi-carb food. These starches have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties. Because of these benefits, I include them in my ketogenic dietary program (a lo-carb regimen) that would otherwise exclude them. Winter squash is also a rich source of fiber and important minerals including manganese, potassium and copper; and certain B vitamins: B2, B6 and folate. (1)
For lots more about the amazing dietary benefits of winter squash, see World’s Healthiest Foods (1) and Nutrition Data (2).
Winter squash can be boiled, steamed, baked, roasted, and used in soups. They are extremely versatile.
How to recognize a ripe squash
As I discover the trick for more varieties, I will update this list.
- Acorn squash: The colorful spot on one side will have change from yellow to orange, and the main color will have changed from bright shiny green to a duller green (3);
- Buttercup squash: The button at the tip (opposite the stem) will have filled out and enlarged from the growth of the seeds inside (Cat’s observation);
- Butternut squash: The skin will have changed from light beige to a deep tan color (3);
- Hubbard squash: this very large squash will feels rock hard and doesn’t give at all when the outer shell is pressed (3).
- World’s Healthiest Foods: whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63
- Nutrition Data: nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2648/2
- The Examiner’s Gardening 101: examiner.com/article/gardening-101-how-to-tell-when-squash-is-ripe-ready-to-harvestshell is pressed. This article has been summarized on The EssentiaList: essentialstuff.org/index.php/2010/09/29/Cat/harvesting-storing-winter-squash