The foods of winter in the northeast are frequently rich and dense in flavor. Numbering prominently among these foods are the winter squashes and root vegetables. Those squashes categorized as “winter” squash include acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and turban. That said, many would argue that acorn squash is really more closely related to its shirttail cousin, the zucchini and consequently qualifies as a summer squash. Others claim that the acorn squash is the result of a mixed marriage between a melon and a cucumber. Technically, squashes in general are fruits, which leads us back to two questions: Who gets to do the categorizing? What are the exact definitions of fruit and vegetable? Definitive answers seem to be in short supply. Let’s just forget the pigeon-holing and enjoy the fruits of our farmers’ labor.
Squash is one of those many fruits most of us treat as vegetables. It is indigenous to the Americas and has been a dietary staple in Mexico and Guatemala for approximately 7,000 years. Along with corn and beans, squash is thought, to have been one of the first foods cultivated in the western hemisphere. Since its western origins squash has travelled far, wide and well. It is now a staple food source in such diverse places as Argentina, China, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Romania and Turkey.
These globe-, sphere-, cone-, cylinder-, pear-, heart-, and serpentine-shaped squashes are worth squirreling away. Depending on the variety, they have an extended shelf life of 3 weeks to a couple of months under optimum conditions. The recommended environment for most squash is that they should rest on a non-concrete surface (cardboard, wooden planks or shelving) not touching each other, to maximize airflow, at a temperature of about 55°F. Many basements qualify. Wine cellars too.
Isn’t it nice that most of these squashes come with their own serving bowl? A bowl that frequently begs to be stuffed with everything from soup to nuts to grains to meats and other vegetables. On the website you will find the recipes for Lamb Stuffed Acorn Squash, Buttermilk Squash and Cider Soup, Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto, and Pan-Braised Winter Squash with Cinnamon Scented Couscous along with many, many others. Today we are offering Roasted Acorn Squash with Maple Syrup and Sage Cream.