Harvest of the Month October: Winter Squash | SierraSun.com

Harvest of the Month October: Winter Squash

Maria Martin

Sierra Sun file photo

Elementary students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District will learn about and taste winter squash this month as part of the Harvest of the Month program. The program allows students to taste and explore a different in-season fruit or vegetable each month. Students learn about the nutritional benefits of these fruits and vegetables, history, fun facts, botanical, and growing information. One of the goals is to motivate students to make healthy choices through hands-on experiences with fruits and vegetables. Winter squash come in many varieties and colors. They arent 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. Winter squash are picked when fully ripe, have a hard shell and contain mature seeds. Summer squash, on the other hand, are picked when they are immature and have a soft, edible shell. Squash are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Western Hemisphere. The Iroquois myth describes Three Sisters who were inseparable. These plants squash, maize (corn), and beans were staples of nearly every Native American tribe.Winter squash are members of the gourd family. The most common varieties 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 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. 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. We all know about Butternut Squash, but there are so many varieties out there to try, so prepare this soup with anything but butternut!Maria Martin, MPH, RD is a member of the Nutrition Coalition. The Nutrition Coalition is supported by the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance. Contact us at 587-3769, ext. 228 or e-mail mmartinrd@yahoo.com.