Squash (Not the Sport)

January 21, 2010 in Antioxidants, Blog Recipes, Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

This past fall when I went out to the vegetable garden, before the fatal damaging frost, I found a little guy huddled among some frost-wilted leaves, scarred but not eaten by the deer – a small winter squash. The winter squash I usually plant are: butternut, acorn, big mama and heirloom banana, but I found a no-name squash. It was the only one of its kind; I think it might be a variety of Cucurbita moschata, because every picture that looked most like it, was a variety of Cucurbita moschata. I, of course, never heard of it, but being a fairly adventuresome gardener, plant things to see how they’ll do. The three names in a nice horticulture website that I found that most resemble the squash in my garden are: Texas Indian Moschata, Magdalena Big Cheese and Cow – that’s right, Cow! Big as a ‘cow’ just doesn’t seem like an apt name for my little squash. I wish I had taken my little squash’s picture before I roasted him; so you could see his skin and pretty, symmetrically curvy shape better.

“Gardening is something you learn by doing — and by making 
mistakes....  Like cooking, gardening is a constant process of 
experimentation, repeating the successes and 
throwing out the failures.” Carol Stocker – writer and gardener

Do you ever eat winter squash? I learned something about myself a long time ago; I rarely made winter squash, because they were so hard to cut. Then one day I read something about roasting squash whole. It has made a world of difference – it has made it possible to add winter squash to our diet on a regular basis.

Why would you want to consider adding winter squash to your menus? I could tell you that in a few words – winter squash is very nourishing, it’s very nutrient dense; that is, it has lots of nutrients for the amount of energy/calories.

Some time ago, I decided that I wouldn’t try to educate people about how many milligrams of this nutrient and grams of that nutrient were in certain foods. But people seem to be learning more and more, and some are actually interested. I still believe that it is easiest just to learn to identify food groups rather than focus effort on percentages of nutrients.

You have, of course, noticed that you don’t generally get a Nutrition Facts Label on the produce that you eat. So the following is to show you that real vegetables are loaded with nutrients. Don’t forget, as I’ve discussed before, that there are hundreds of nutrients that are not listed – some of them fall under the general category of phytonutrients (plant nutrients).

Before adding any salt, butter or oil, winter squash has the following nutrients in one cup; 205 grams to be precise.

One gram fat; zero saturated fat; of course no trans fat (it’s only in processed fats) or cholesterol (only in animal products); 2 mg sodium (125mg of sodium in 8oz. fresh milk); 6 grams of fiber; 2 grams of protein; 214% vitamin A (really precursors for vitamin A) (Percentage Daily values -DV (for a 2,000 calorie diet); vitamin C 33%  DV; 5% Iron DV; vitamin K 11%; Vitamin B6  17%; Folate 10%; Calcium 5% DV; 189mg omega-3 fatty acids and 113 omega-6 fatty acids. I just don’t remember these numbers and I doubt that anyone does; but they help you to see how eating a colorful nutritious winter squash, can be a benefit.

If this label were slapped on your vegetables, would it help? Would it encourage you to try it? Would you want to see how delicious it would taste? Would you want to find out how pleasantly full and well nourished you could be on so few calories? Would you want to try it knowing how easy it is to make a relatively inexpensive food?

Nutrition Facts Label

Nutrition Facts Label

One interesting fact that I learned about 10 years ago is: if you live where the weather is cold in the winter (not southern California where I’m from), you can keep a winter squash cold and dry; it will last for months after its fall harvest. The little squash that I harvested in September had a wonderful flavor in January as Roasted Winter Squash.