submitted by Robert Beetham ...
This is an unashamed plug for a vegetable still under appreciated in this country. Squashes, pumpkins, gourds, marrows, cucumbers are all members of the Cucubitaceae family. They have been cultivated for many thousands of years. Terminology can be confusing. What I might call a squash will probably be called a pumpkin in North America and by many people in this country.
In North America the pumpkin is used for carving and celebrating Halloween, a custom that has now caught on in Britain. In fact, it was probably in use here with turnips before it transferred to America. Pumpkin pie is a sweet pie usually served as a dessert at Thanksgiving or Christmas in North America but again recipes can be found from England predating this time.
Winter squashes are those that are planted out in late May and then grown in a warm long season so as to reach maturity and then be suitable for storage. Summer squashes are usually harvested before maturity and lack the flavour of their winter cousins. The squash that we are probably most familiar with, the ‘Butternut Squash’ is usually imported from warmer climes and is usually the only one that we see on the supermarket shelves. It needs a very good summer for it to grow properly in this country.
However, there are a number of others available in seed catalogues that do, in my experience, grow reliably in our climate except in the worst of summers and, what is more have, in my opinion, a much superior taste to butternut. Varieties that can be recommended among others are Uchiki Kuri, Marina di Chioggia, Green Hokkaido, Rarity (Crown Prince), all winter squashes. In the absence of these superior varieties on our supermarket shelves (although in the past few years they have been available in small independent retailers such as the Better Food Company in St Werburgh’s or from Winterbourne Barn on Orchard Harvest Day), then those of us with sufficient ground and the inclination have to grow them ourselves.
Squashes have their flavour enhanced if they are roasted first. The best way to do this is to clean the skin, cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and then cut into 5cm x 2 cm chunks and turn in a mix of oil and seasoning of choice. Cook for about 45 min at gas mark 6 until flesh and skin are soft. The skin can then be eaten along with the flesh. Roast squash makes an intensely flavoured and sweet vegetable to serve alongside others. It can be made into soup with many recipes available on the internet or later sliced up further to add to other dishes. If dealing with a whole squash is too much, uncooked it can easily be stored for a week or more in a plastic bag in the fridge.
PS: The author saves his own squash seeds and has some to share. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org