Here in America, it is well known that the Native Americans had grown these vegetables, (also considered to be "fruits"), for thousands of years. Known as askutasquash, (which is Native American for "eaten raw or uncooked"), squash was a "wild" crop believing to have originated in the area between Guatemala and Mexico, and comes from the species known as gourd Family Cucurbitaceae. It is known to be one of the most Ancient crops- dating back at least 10,000 years according to excavated sites in Mexico. Squashes are also known as gourds, and archeological findings indicate that gourds were used as utensils and/or food containers by ancient peoples- due to their hard shells. Like many ancient peoples, the Native Americans believed that by consuming the seeds of the squashes, it would bring them fertility. They also believed the squash to be so incredibly nutritious, that they would bury a squash with the dead to "bring them nourishment in the afterlife." Now, the wild squashes that grew centuries ago are similar, but not anything like the squashes that are currently grown and consumed in modern societies! Ancient squashes were known to be more bitter in taste, had much more seeds, and less flesh. When the Pilgrims were introduced to the squashes by the Native Americans, they were not too impressed!! They didn't begin to adopt the squash as a "staple food", until they had to survive the harsh New England Winters! They enjoyed eating their squash much as we do today: baked or roasted, with honey or maple syrup, and animal fat. Interestingly enough, the first ever "pumpkin pie", (as it were), was not actually a pie with a crust, but more of a stuffed baked pumpkin! (It was a hallowed out pumpkin, filled with apples, spices, sugar, and milk, and then it was baked whole with the top placed back on it!) Interesting!!
So when we talk about the "Winter Squashes", we are referring mostly to: Acorn, Butternut, Pumpkin, Hubbard, Turban, Spaghetti, and the Japanese Kobocha. All of these squashes are a bit different in texture, color, taste, and appearance, but they are all similar in nutritional content. (With the exception of the Butternut variety being a bit "superior" over some of it's counterparts- specifically it's Vitamin A content!) Spaghetti is unique in that once it's cooked, by simply running a fork along the flesh, strands or "noodles" are pulled up, and the texture really resembles pasta! Whereas Butternut has a very dense and creamy flesh, and is also sweeter in flavor. No matter which squash you choose, you'll be adding a powerhouse of nutrients and health to your diet!
The incredible health benefits of Winter squash are:
* Touted as the number #1 source of beta- carotenes and alpha-carotenes (anti-oxidents) in U.S. studies- which are exceptional in:
cancer prevention (especially Colon Cancer), as well as potential with cancer treatment
Anti-inflammatory properties aid in helping with achy joints as well as asthma
* Very high in Vitamin C- which are key for supporting the immune system
* Rich in folate (B- complex vitamins)- which is especially important for expectant mothers in preventing birth defects, (such as Spina Bifida), as well as useful in controlling blood sugar levels, and managing Type 2 diabetes.
* Because it's low in calories, and has no saturated fats or cholesterol, and it's low- carb, it is very useful in controlling cholesterol, as well as weight management.
* High in dietary fiber & Omega-3's
* Also contains adequate levels of minerals, such as: copper, magnesium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
Winter squashes are commercially grown in many countries, are inexpensive, highly nutritional, and incredibly delicious in everything from soups, side and main dishes, to desserts!
For ideas on how to use and/or cook squash, check out my "Recipe" page!
**Support your local farmers and economy by buying your produce locally!!