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Published September 25, 2012, 11:35 PM

Squash season: Simple or sophisticated, ingredient perfect for fall

Fall is finally here, arriving sometime Saturday. And appropriately, it was accompanied by the season’s first hard frost Sunday morning.

By: Jeff Tiedeman, INFORUM

Fall is finally here, arriving sometime Saturday.

And appropriately, it was accompanied by the season’s first hard frost Sunday morning.

For garden hangers-on like me, that meant covering the last of my vegetables – tomatoes, eggplants and peppers as well as some basil and scarlet runner beans. (I also picked the remaining cucumbers and summer squash and let nature take its course with their vines.)

One of my regrets again this year is not having planted some winter squash and pumpkins. It wasn’t for lack of seed, however, because I have plenty of them. It’s just that ever since we quit having an out-of-town garden a half-dozen years ago at the home of friends Rob and JoAnn Vollrath, I haven’t had enough room for buttercups – my favorite variety of squash – and jack o’ lantern pumpkins.

While winter squash are edible for the most part, most Halloween-type pumpkins are better for ornaments than eating, although many people do eat them in soups and breads. They contain low sugar, have thin walls and are stringy. Basically speaking, the smaller pumpkins (New England Pie, Baby Pam, Cinderella and Sugar) are the better tasting and more tender.

Perhaps what I like the most about winter squash is that it lends itself to simplicity. The same can be said for pumpkins. It takes nothing to split and bake a squash or pumpkin.

Our favorite way to fix winter squash – buttercup, of course – is to cut it in half and place it upside-down on a cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil and bake until the skin is tender. Then, we like to put a dab of butter and a sprinkle or two of brown sugar on it to enhance the flavor

When discussing winter squash with a couple of people the other day over coffee, Grand Forks artist Adam Kemp said he was in agreement. Adam, a native of England, said he likes his winter squash baked with a just little olive oil, salt and pepper.

That’s not to say anything against some more elaborate meanings of fixing winter squash.

Pat Grinde – an old friend of mine – said she likes to stuff acorn squash (another winter variety) with bulgur wheat, mushrooms, onion, nuts and dried cranberries and season it with a number of herbs including sage, thyme and nutmeg.

Fortunately for people like me who love winter squash and pumpkins but don’t plant any, neighborhood grocery stores and farmers markets are bulging with them.

And if you are really lucky, friends who have grown their own maybe will send a few your way.

Tiedeman is food editor at the Grand Forks Herald.

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