This week our boxes have butternut squash in them and that gave us the idea to spend a few minutes talking about squash and butternut in particular.
There are lots of different kinds of squash, many of which have been around for thousands of years. Squash was probably first cultivated in Central and South America over 8000 years ago. There is debate about whether cultivation of squash and other forms of agriculture spread from Central America up into eastern North America or if agriculture and squash cultivation arose independently in eastern North America. Either way, by the time European explorers landed in the Americas Natives were growing maize, beans and squash.
Often referred to as the Three Sisters, the trio of vegetables highly benefits from being grown and eaten together. When grown in the same space the maize provides a structure for the beans to climb and natural shade for the squash. The squash in turn shades the ground, keeps out weeds and acts as natural pest control. When eaten together they compose a complete carbohydrate and a good source of protein. In addition, the beans return nitrogen to the soil which is necessary because maize and squash draw significant amounts of nitrogen out of the soil when they grow. Thus, the Three Sisters are naturally sustainable, both for the earth and as a food source.
Butternut squash is a fall and winter squash that was originally developed in Massachusetts. It has a rich orange color which darkens as it matures. In some places in the world it is actually referred to as a type of pumpkin. It can be eaten young when the skin is still soft or after it matures when the skin is much thicker and though still edible is far less pleasant to eat.
The insides of the Butternut squash are composed of a rich flesh and a seedy pulp. The seeds are edible raw or roasted and can be quite tasty. Butternut squash flesh when cooked is creamy and dense with a natural sweetness and pumpkiny flavor. It is often roasted or baked by simply removing the seeds and pulp, lightly coating the inside in cooking oil and baking.
How should I cook my squash this week?
Here is my favorite way to cook butternut squash:
Cut your squash in half lengthwise and clean out the insides. With the pulp now removed from both halves score the flesh inside the squash lengthwise with 3 or 4 half inch deep cuts. put a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar in each half. Cover the open side of the squash with aluminum foil and place rind side down, foil side up, on a cooking sheet. Place in a preheated oven at 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To test if your squash is done remove the foil and stick the flesh with a fork. The squash should be tender and soft, much like a cooked sweet potato.
Let your squash cool for 5+ minutes. Remove the foil. You can now eat the squash in any number of ways but my favorite is to mash up the insides with a fork or a spoon, mixing in the cooked butter and sugar and then to simply eat the squash using the rind as a bowl. Enjoy!