It just sounds good, doesn’t it? But what exactly are we talking about? The term stands for a wide swath of diverse items. In the first instance, it is a white walnut tree native to North America. Then we find that Confederate soldiers were nicknamed “Butternuts” for their uniform trousers which were a burnished yellow-brown color called butternut. Butternut has been a brand of both bread and coffee, the name of a now-defunct candy bar featuring caramel and peanuts, a doughnut flavor and a WWII Pacific naval ship. For our finite purposes, it is an edible winter squash with a sweet nutty flavor and orange flesh, the riper the squash, the brighter the flesh.
As with so many other of our farmers’ produce, this squash has been misclassified as a vegetable. Technically, it is a fruit. Who cares? It has a rich flavor and can be roasted, boiled, grilled, baked, sautéed and steamed. It may be stuffed, mashed, pureed or gratinéed. It has been deliciously transformed into pasta sauces, ravioli stuffing, soups, puddings and pies. It is one of the table’s most amiable crops for its ability to work with diverse flavors, cooking methods and it defies course restraints feeling totally comfortable at any.
Though there are disputes among food historians, the butternut variety is generally claimed to have been developed by Charles Leggett when he cross-bred gooseneck and Hubbard squashes. Accordingly, Dorothy Leggett, his wife is credited for the naming because it was “as smooth as butter and as sweet as a nut”.
Past columns have published quite a few recipes for butternut and other winter squash, including: Pan-Braised Winter Squash with Cinnamon Scented Couscous, Butternut Squash and Cider Soup, Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Gallete, Fettuccine with Butternut Squash, Poppy Seeds and Pignoli, and Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto (pictured above). It’s a great site to find a idea for using our market produce. This week we’re adding a recipe for Butternut Corn Soup from our own Market Master, Kay Carroll. You may have been lucky enough to get a taste at the last market. It is deeply rich and satisfying.