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Winter squash


WInter Squash

Varieties

Winter squashes, as distinct from summer squashes like zucchini, ripen on the vine and develop an inedible, thick, hard rind and tough seeds. Because the rind makes squash difficult to peel, it's easier to cook the unpeeled squash, and then scoop out the cooked flesh.

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Storage

Store whole winter squash in an area where temperatures range from 45 to 50F for three to six months. At room temperature reduce storage time to one and a half to three months depending on variety. See the selection and storage information above.

Cooked squash freezes well. Pack into freezer containers or freezer bags leaving 1/2 inch head space and freeze for up to one year. Canning is not recommended unless the squash is cut into cubes.

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Origins and Culture

As one of the Three Sisters of Native American agriculture, winter squash was a mainstay of the Native American diet. Altogether, the Three Sisters of Native agriculture were squash, maize, and climbing beans. In a technique known as companion planting, the three crops were planted close together. Flat-topped mounds of soil were built for each "cluster", about 30 cm (1 ft) high and 50 cm (20 in) wide. Several maize seeds were planted close together, in the very center of each mound. When the maize was roughly 15 cm (6 inches) tall, beans and squash were planted around the maize, alternating between beans and squash.
In simple, but effective ways, the three crops benefited from each other. The maize provided a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provided the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants removed. The squash spread along the ground, monopolizing the sunlight and preventing weeds. The squash also acted as a "living mulch," and created a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil. Sometimes fish or eel were often planted with the maize seeds, to act as additional fertilizer where the soil was poor.
The name "squash" is an abbreviation of the word "askutasquash" from the Narragansett language, a tongue the pioneers of New England found challenging. Other tribes in the area had a similar word for squash that literally meant "something that is eaten raw." The Iroquois called squash "isquoutersquash." The Algonquins' word, taken from the second syllable, was "askoot."

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Although each type of squash has its own unique nutritional properties, in general a 100g serving of the various squashes contains 63 calories, 15g of carbohydrates, 2g of protein and 2g of dietary fibre. Squash is a good source of beta-carotene, contains 82% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A, 21% for vitamin C, 4% for iron and 3% for calcium.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

To prepare, wash the squash just before using. The seeds are scooped out before or after cooking. All varieties are great for pureeing, roasting and baking. Once squash is cooked and mashed, it can be used in soups, main dishes, vegetable side dishes, even breads, muffins, custards and pies.

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