Winter Squash-as Beautiful as It Is Nutritious
As the weather changes people often look to decorate their homes with pumpkins and squash. While they make beautiful decorations many are also great to eat. Squash varieties harvested in fall are known as winter squash. Winter squash have richer, darker colors than summer squash varieties and far surpass them in nutritional benefits.
Popular winter squash varieties include but are not limited to: acorn, buttercup, butternut, pumpkin, and spaghetti. Each type is different in color, shape, size, and flavor but all have tough outer shells. While the hard shell can make cutting and peeling more challenging, it provides the squash with a longer shelf life.
The nutritional quality of each winter squash varies but all have common health benefits. Winter squash is full of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Although many diets shy away from carbohydrates, they are actually one of the 7 essential nutrients our bodies need. Carbohydrates fuel our bodies, giving us energy and helping our brain to function properly. Fiber plays a key role in our bodies digestive system.
Potassium, niacin, iron, and beta-carotene are also nutrients found in winter squash. In the body, beta-carotene becomes Vitamin A, essential for healthy skin, vision, bone development and, many more body functions. Generally, the darker the orange color, the higher the beta-carotene or Vitamin A.
When selecting squash look for ones with hard shells, no soft spots and a heavyweight for size. Soft spots indicate the squash was picked too early, and a lightweight indicates that the inside of the squash has begun to dry. If properly stored, winter squash can last up to 3 months in a cool, dry space.
The options are endless for delicious winter squash recipes. Acorn squash can be prepared in the oven or microwave. After cooking it can be scooped out to add to recipes or stuffed with a mixture of your choice.
Roasted Acorn Squash
Preheat oven to 400ºF degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on baking sheet cut-side down for 40-50 minutes. Squash is done when the cut-side is slightly caramelized and the middle is tender.
Microwave Acorn Squash
Cut acorn squash in half. Remove and discard seeds and fiber. In a shallow microwave-safe dish, place squash cut-side down. Put 1 tbsp of water in the bottom of the dish. Microwave covered on high for 10-12 minutes or until tender.