When visiting the grocery store, do you always gravitate toward the same old produce? Bananas, apples, corn, and potatoes seem to grace American tables all the time, while dozens of wonderful and tasty fruits and vegetables get left behind. Break out of your produce rut and try some new flavors such as the array of winter squash available including acorn and butternut.
About winter squash. Winter squash is available in many varieties. Two of the most popular, and thus most readily available, are butternut and acorn. These vegetables have a very hard outer shell and a soft flesh inside. Cousin to the pumpkin, winter squash has a mild and slightly sweet flavor. Though called winter squash (to differentiate it from summer squash varieties such as zucchini and yellow squash), acorn and butternut varieties are typically available year round in today’s grocery stores, however their peak season are the months of October and November.
Preparing winter squash. When purchasing winter squash, look for produce that has a nice, firm flesh. A winter squash that feels heavy for its size is also a good choice. The shelf life of winter squash varies greatly, however most will keep for at least three weeks, often longer, at room temperature and away from sources of heat and cold. To open a winter squash you will need a sharp knife and some elbow grease. Slice the squash lengthwise and carefully remove the seeds and any stringy/goopy material in the open cavity using a spoon.
Ways to eat winter squash. Winter squash can be prepared in a variety of ways. After preparing your winter squash, place it cut side up in the microwave for about 8 minutes, or cut side down in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your winter squash. Once the flesh is tender, top your winter squash with butter and brown sugar, much like a sweet potato. You can also cube winter squash and either season to taste (ginger and salt are nice seasonings) for a simple side dish, or add the cubes to soups and stews.
Why eat winter squash. Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin A. It also contains large amounts of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and fiber. Winter squash even contains folate and omega-3 fatty acids! Omega-3s are excellent for your cardiovascular health and can sometimes be difficult to find in foods.
The next time you visit the produce section of your grocery store, think outside the box and purchase some winter squash for a tasty, nutritious addition to your diet.
Source: The World’s Healthiest Foods, www.whfoods.org
Want to learn more about additional fruits and vegetables you can add to your diet? Visit my Content Producer page for more articles!