Have you seen them? The pumpkins are here! Pumpkin patches are popping up everywhere. Pumpkins, gourds, and winter squashes have made their official arrival into the marketplace. It’s definitely starting to feel a lot like the holiday season is upon us.
Winter squash, which includes pumpkin, butternut squash, hubbard squash, acorn squash, kabocha squash, and spaghetti squash, are actually relatives of both cucumbers and melons. Their yellow/orange flesh makes them rich in carotenoids, including both alpha and beta-carotene (precursor to Vitamin A), which are powerful antioxidants that protect your DNA. They’re also high in fiber.
Don’t forget about the pumpkin seeds, which are a great source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, tryptophan, iron, copper, zinc, and protein. The phytosterols in pumpkin seeds can help to lower cholesterol, enhance the immune response, and reduce the risk of some cancers.
The hard, inedible skin on these fruits (yes, they’re actually fruit because they have seeds) means that they will last about 2-3 weeks on your kitchen counter before you cook with them. Refrigerating them isn’t recommended, as it actually promotes deterioration.
How to use them
There are so many ways to use winter squash. You can make soup, muffins, breads, cookies, pie, souffle, fantastic side dishes, dips, and even a pasta-like substitute! The best, and easiest way is to peel them, toss them in a little olive oil, place them on a baking sheet and roast them in a 400F oven until soft and golden. Check out the following recipes for super-easy and tasty ways to prepare them.
Maple-Glazed Roast Pumpkin
- 1 sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- 1 tbs. maple syrup
- 1 tbs. agave
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
- Prepare the pumpkin or butternut squash by cutting in half and removing the seeds. Then cut into wedges and remove the hard outer skin (use a vegetable peeler or a chef’s knife).
- Place the squash pieces in a large bowl and add the oil, maple syrup, agave, and cinnamon. Toss to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet and put in the oven.
- Cook about 30 minutes or until soft and golden.Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving
Spaghetti Squash Marinara
- 1 spaghetti squash
- your favorite marinara sauce
- fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds using a strong metal spoon. Place cut side down, in a microwave-safe glass dish. Pour a little water in the dish, about 1/3 of the way up the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on High 12-15 minutes or until it’s soft.
- Carefully remove from the microwave and pan as both will be very hot. Allow to cool and use a fork to separate the strands of “spaghetti”-like squash.
- Mix the “spaghetti” with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy.
- A great variation on this is to make a turkey and vegetable meat sauce to serve over the spaghetti squash for an easy one-pot meal!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Wash and dry the pumpkin seeds. Toss with 1 tbs. canola oil and a blend of spices (I like ground cumin and chili powder) and a little sea salt.
- Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and put in a 350 F oven. Roast for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan often to toss the seeds and prevent from burning. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. When they’re a light golden color, remove from oven and transfer to a plate to cool.