Winter Squash


Oct 28
Red Kabocha Squash

In the past few weeks since developing new recipes using winter squash, I’ve heard tons of myths from a lot of people about this really healthy vegetable, but the saddest statement was, “I’ve never tried squash.”

Few realize that each type of winter squash has its own particular taste, sweetness, and nutritional content. Few realize that with many varieties, the skin is edible and contains, as with most vegetables, even more nutrition than the “meat” inside.

My favorite has become the winter squash in the opening photo, the Red Kobucha. However, there are others that I like as well, mainly because of their sweetness, such as the Red Kuri and Hubbard.  Both the Kobucha and Kuri have skins that can be eaten. The Hubbard skin is a bit too tough to eat, but the seeds can be roasted. If you try eating the seeds of the Kobucha or Kuri, you might break your teeth. (The squirrels love them!)

The myths about winter squash seem to be centered on calories and carbohydrates. And, yes, the carbs in winter squash make up over 85% of its calories, but get this: the glycemic index is low, the glycemic load is between 3 and 5, and because of the fiber, the sugars are released slowly, keeping your blood sugar from spiking.

And the nutrition is just “out of sight!” (And if you know us, you know we don’t use exclamation points very often.)

And get this: the amounts of alpha and beta carotene do not decrease in cooking. [Ref]

When you cut open a squash, you find a color range of orange to yellow. The colors are created by the carotenoids, which are organic, water soluble pigments. From carrots to corn, it’s the carotenoids that give you their colors.

But it’s the squash where you really find these pigments, and not just alpha and beta carotene, but an entire host of cartenoids:  auroxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavoxanthin, luteoxanthin, neoxanthin, neurosporene, phytofluene, taraxanthin, violaxanthin, and zeaxanthin. [Ref]

We don’t use pumpkin here simply because it’s not very sweet, and requires more sugar when baking. It’s that simple, but the pumpkin is also a powerhouse of nutrition. Because of its lack of sugar, it has a lower glycemic index. It also has a bit more potassium, vitamin A and vitamin E than the sweeter varieties; whereas the Kobucho has more vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate.

The take-away here should be the amounts of antioxidants and carotenoids that protect against cancer and boost immunity. The minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and magnesium protect your cardiovascular system.

Additionally, the American Institute for Cancer Research says: “lutein and zeaxanthin: these yellow pigmented carotenoids help protect eye health by filtering high-energy ultraviolet rays that can damage our eyes’ lens and retina. They act as antioxidants here and possibly elsewhere in our bodies.”

And if you bake a pie or muffin with these, as long as you don’t use a lot of white sugar, you’ll have a pretty healthy treat to feed your family.

So far, we have two recipes with this Kobucho squash:

Pumpkin (Squash) Raisin (Craisin) Omega Muffins (Breads):  We sold these at the Farmers Market calling them the “Bait & Switch” Muffins, in that we advertised them as Pumpkin Raisin Muffins, but they were really Squash Craisin Muffins. Then the next week, we baked breads using the same recipe.

Crustless Squash Pie: We made these in 3 inch pans for the Farmers Market and people loved them. The crust of a pumpkin pie has the worst calories and so little nutrition that we’ve just tossed it out. This is great with coffee in the morning.