Harvest of the Month in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District: for October: Winter squash | SierraSun.com

Harvest of the Month in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District: for October: Winter squash

Special to the Sun

Getty ImagesWinter squash are an excellent source of Vitamin A (as Beta carotene).

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; October brings crisp fall mornings, an abundance of fresh winter squash and the return of the Harvest of the Month Program to TTUSD elementary students. The Harvest of the Month Program, which is beginning its fourth year in our school District, allows students to taste and explore a different, in-season, California-grown fruit or vegetable each month. Students learn about the nutritional benefits, history, fun facts and growing information while trying familiar and not so familiar foods with their peers. This month we will be exploring a variety of winter squashes including, spaghetti squash, butternut squash and acorn squash.

Squash are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Western Hemisphere with seeds found in Mexico dated at 10,000 years old. Squash figure prominently in the story of the and#8220;Three Sisters,and#8221; an Iroquois myth which tells the tale of three inseparable sisters. The and#8220;Three Sistersand#8221; and#8212; squash, corn, and beans and#8212; were staples of nearly every Native American tribe in the Americas.

Winter squash are members of the gourd family. Gourds, cucumbers and melons are all part of the same botanical family but they each originated in very different locations. Squash and pumpkins are native to the Americas, cucumbers originated in eastern Asia and melons originated in Africa or Persia.

Winter squash come in many varieties and colors. They are not grown and harvested in winter, but because of their hard shell, they can be stored for a long time, making them available during the winter months. The most common varieties of winter squash are: Acorn, butternut, spaghetti, pumpkin, banana and turban. Winter squash are an excellent source of Vitamin A (as Beta carotene). Beta carotene is an anti-oxidant and is important for healthy vision. Winter squash are also great sources of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. The darker the flesh, the greater the nutrients!

Choose squash that are firm, heavy for their size, and have dull skins (not shiny). A shiny skin indicates that it has been picked too early or has a wax coating. Winter squash can be stored for three months or longer in a cool, dry place.

Winter squash are very versatile. Bake, boil, steam, saute or microwave. Use in soups, stews, salads, dips, breads, as a side dish and even in pies. Cooked, pureed squash can be frozen for use later to thicken and flavor soups, sauces, or stews or in quick breads and pies.

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We all know about butternut squash, but there are so many more varieties out there to try, so prepare this soup with anything butand#8230;

and#8212; Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition and a Wellness Dietitian. The Nutrition Coalition is funded and supported by the Tahoe Forest Health System through the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at 530-587-3769, ext. 7126 or mmartin@tfhd.com.

This recipe is provided by Mark Estee, Chef/Owner of Moodyand#8217;s and Baxterand#8217;s Bistro and Lounge. Mark sits on the board for Project MANA, is a founding member of the Slow Food Lake Tahoe convivia, and is passionate about simple, seasonal, fresh and local food. He believes that cooking and spending time in the kitchen, alone or as a family, will make everyoneand#8217;s day a little better!

2 pounds winter squash, roasted and scooped from its skin

6 cups vegetable stock

1 each diced onion

1 cup diced celery

2 oz. sherry wine

2 oz. sherry vinegar

4 oz. maple syrup

4 oz. brown sugar

1 Tbs. fresh minced sage

1 Tbs. fresh minced thyme

4 oz. butter

4 oz. heavy cream

Kosher salt to taste

Fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a soup pot, melt the butter and add onion and celery. Cook until softened. Add the cooked squash, vinegar, and sherry, simmer for five minutes. Add the remaining items and simmer for one hour, adding additional stock if needed. Puree in a blender in smaller batches and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with toasted pine nuts as a garnish.