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If You Were a Winter Squash…

Image of Winter Squash Sampler
It’s autumn, and nothing signals the season better than the colorful displays of Melissa’s organic winter squash that greet you when you walk into the produce department at your local grocery store. As you look at all the shapes and sizes, your thoughts may turn to delicious ideas of squash soup, baked butternut, stuffed acorn and the like— or you may consider the dense, dark orange flesh of winter squash makes an ideal winter food. High in vitamin A, it's a powerful antioxidant when we need it most to combat the cold and flu season while also benefiting our winter-weary eyes and skin. Sweet-tasting winter squash is rich in complex carbohydrates that digest slowly, providing energy over time instead of the quick sugar buzz of simple carb foods. It’s also high in fiber, which absorbs water in the digestive tract and helps eliminate toxins and waste…something we could all use during those winter months of rich holiday meals!

With its tough shell and fleshy interior, winter squash seeds have the perfect home to wait out winter for spring planting. It’s no wonder Native Americans valued squash so highly; they could stockpile it as food to last the winter, keeping some as seeds for the next year’s crop. Along with corn and beans, squash was one of the sacred Three Sisters. Perfect complements when grown together, the sprawling squash vines cover the ground, keeping out weeds, while the tall corn planted between the squash provides its stalk for the beans to climb.

All of this makes a lot of sense, but I started thinking of something a little more fun for this column. So, I asked this question to the team members and customers at my current position as Interim General Manager at Life Source Natural Foods in Salem, Oregon:

If you were a winter squash, which one would you be, and how would you like to be cooked?

As for me, I would be a Kabocha. While I may look like a smaller, squat version of a pumpkin, my deep green body and lighter green highlights allow me to stand out in any squash crowd. My sweet, super-rich flavor and velvety yet dryer texture may have some of you thinking I’m more akin to a sweet potato— alas, I'm not. I'm all winter squash! Some say this Japanese pumpkin has the taste and texture of roasted chestnuts— mm, mmm! My texture makes me an excellent candidate for roasting, steaming, and frying, or adding to your favorite Thai curry. My favorite way to be cooked is cut into wedges, roasted with coconut oil, and sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper.

One customer answered:
“I'd be an acorn with its beautiful geometry, lovely, sweet flavor and deep green color. My favorite is to bake it and top it with browned butter and a little brown sugar!”

Another chimed in:
“I’d be a Delicata. Specifically, Delicata baked 'french fries' with a garlic aioli dipping sauce”.

A wellness clerk said:
“I'd be a Hubbard "pumpkin" pie! And then there's thin sliced sautéed Delicata in a salad with arugula, radicchio, soft goat cheese and maybe even bacon.”

Our mercantile buyer shared:
“I would be a pumpkin, and I shall be cooked into a fine pie, complete with whipped cream and a cardamom ginger caramel drizzle. Drizzle me up good, don't skimp on the sauce.”

A produce clerk recalled a story with his pick:
“Pumpkin! So many varieties are delicious in both savory and sweet dishes pies, cheesecake (I make a mean one with homemade caramel and roasted pecans, btw), curries and pasta or just being fun to carve. When I worked for Harry and David, we hired a master carver to make a 9-foot-tall totem out of three pumpkins, stacked one on top of each other, that weighed over 600 pounds. Each had a different face. And being a part of my favorite holiday, Halloween, it cements the pumpkin as my favorite squash.”

And a front-end team member excitedly exclaimed:
“Ooh, I'm torn... There's nothing like butternut squash ravioli with an earthy and sweet sauce. But I think I'm going to go with spaghetti squash; I'm a huge fan of pasta and enjoy the healthy alternative with a unique texture! I like to bake it in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, some garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whipping up a tasty marinara sauce with some Italian Tofurkey Sausage makes for a hearty and savory meal!”

Now, not every customer or team member could relate as one customer bolded stated:
“I’m a summer squash. Sorry.”

…To which a few others heartily agreed!

How ‘bout you?

Not sure? Take this fun Winter Squash Quiz my colleague Ben Martin put together. Count the number of like letters you chalk up to see where you land.

I’d love to hear which squash you are and can’t wait to hear about who I'm displayed with in the amazing squash displays during my favorite season, autumn!

What Kind of Squash Am I?
Take our quiz and find out!

1. My favorite thing about fall is:
A. Leaves changing color
B. Soups and stews
C. Listening to the rain
D. Sweaters
E. Halloween
F. I hate fall. Give me summer back

2. If they’re being honest, my friends might say that I’m:
A. Reliable, but maybe a bit nutty
B. Mostly tasteful, but occasionally a little inappropriate
C. Thin-skinned
D. Full of surprises
E. A little basic, but sweet
F. Immature

3. My favorite pants are:
A. Green
B. Khaki
C. Yellow
D. Red
E. Orange
F. Shorts

4. I love to eat:
A. Maple bars
B. Moroccan food
C. French fries
D. Italian food
E. Pumpkin spice anything!
F. Whatever… I’m not picky

5. On a road trip, my radio is tuned to:
A. Hip-Hop
B. Classic Rock
C. R&B
D. News/Talk
E. Easy Listening
F. Country

Congratulations!

A. You are an Acorn Squash! Flexible and versatile, Acorn Squashes can be sweet when they need to, but they can roll with life’s punches, too. Acorn Squashes are always looking for someone else who complements them perfectly.

B. You are a Butternut Squash! Bold and ambitious, Butternut Squashes can take whatever life throws at them. Butternut Squashes aren’t afraid of change and can make the best of most situations.

C. You are a Delicata Squash! While they may not be as flashy as some others, Delicata Squashes certainly aren’t as meek as they might first appear. True Bohemians, Delicata Squashes, can pull things off that others never could.

D. You are a Spaghetti Squash! Often misunderstood, Spaghetti Squashes don’t have patience for saccharine superficiality. But anyone who invests the time it takes to get to know a Spaghetti Squash is well rewarded.

E. You are a Pumpkin! They may not stand out much, but Pumpkins don’t need to. Pumpkins know they’ve got everything they need to be well and truly loved. Let the haters hate: it’s their loss.

F. You are a Zucchini! While definitely still a squash, Zucchinis must be treated differently. Full of grand possibilities and able to fit in just about anywhere, Zucchinis must take special care not to get too big for their britches.

G. If none of these line up for you, then you’re either a Turban squash or you’ll have to go on your own squash discovery tour and find out where you land in the squash display.
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