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Get Squashed

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Get Squashed

Winter or summer, squash is packed full of nutrients that can help you retain--or regain--your health. Squash is a highly alkaline food and is an excellent remedy for acidosis of the liver and blood.

Winter or summer, squash is packed full of nutrients that can help you retain–or regain–your health.

Squash is a highly alkaline food and is an excellent remedy for acidosis of the liver and blood. These carbohydrate vegetables are a great source of nutrition for those with digestive disorders as well as diabetics. Winter squash is especially high in vitamins A and C and so has strong anti-carcinogenic properties; vitamin A deficiencies can also be a factor in insomnia, fatigue, frequent colds, skin disorders and weight loss. Including squash regularly in your diet can help address these disorders. The high levels of potassium in squash can also help lower cholesterol and maintain stable blood pressure.

Fresh squash juice applied to burns or inflammation relieves the pain; raw squash seeds eliminate roundworms and tapeworms.

While the nutritional profile of the myriad of edible squashes vary, they are all a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and the essential amino acid phenylalanine. Summer squash contains vitamin B6, magnesium and the essential amino acids leucine, lysine and valine. Winter squash contributes a good dose of the antioxidants beta-carotene and thiamine. And of course, organically grown squash will not only be packed with these wonderful nutrients, but will also be free of chemical contamination.

Savor Squash

What distinguishes winter from summer squash is the tougher skin. This gives it the ability to be stored for months–thus subsidizing cold weather diets at a time when fresh, local produce is no longer readily available nor affordable.

So many parts of the vegetable are edible. Male squash blossoms can be added raw to salads or they can be stuffed and baked. Squash seeds are also edible. Summer squash seeds are smaller and more tender and are eaten with the rest of the vegetable. Winter squash seeds are separated from the pulp and dried, then eaten with the hull on or off, raw or toasted. When raw they are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as iron, zinc, phosphorus and vitamin A.

Summer squash have a delicate and pleasant flavor and come in a delightful array of colors and shapes. Common varieties of summer squash include long or round zucchini, vegetable marrow, scallop or pattypan squash and yellow crookneck or gooseneck. These mild vegetables can be thinly sliced and added raw to fresh garden salads or chopped and used to dip into humus and other flavorful dips. For a nutritious treat, steam summer squash until tender then drizzle with a flax oil, a good quality tamari and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast. They can also be sliced more thickly for baking or barbecuing. Brush with olive oil, perhaps a dash of tamari and any of the following complementary herbs: garlic, basil, parsley, marjoram, dill, thyme, mint or a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cooking summer squash lightly retains texture, but longer cooking brings out its richer flavors.

Winter Eating

Mature summer squash are generally tough and lend themselves more to stuffing and baking. After cutting the squash in half, scoop out enough of the flesh to leave a cavity. Steam or saut?his flesh, adding whatever ingredients you have on hand and that strike your fancy: tomatoes, corn, peppers or eggplant work well. Blend in a carbohydrate such as quinoa or rice, herbs, perhaps some freshly toasted almonds and return to the cavity. Bake at 190°C (375°F) until the squash shell is tender (25 minutes or so) and serve with a dollop of kefir, preferably homemade.

Winter squash generally come in various shades of orange, which add both antioxidant nutrition and beautiful color to dull winter days–generally the deeper the orange, the sweeter the flesh. Because winter squash take longer to develop from flower to harvest, they are a more concentrated food source. Common winter squash varieties are acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkins, spaghetti and turban squash.

Peel, seed and chop winter squash and add to stews or soups. They can also be cut in half, the pulp and seeds removed and then cooked, cut side down, at 180°C (325°F) until tender. The flesh is then removed, pur? and added to soups, pies, baking or custards. The taste of a pie made from freshly pur? pumpkin will surprise and delight you. Winter squash flavors are complemented by olive oil, butter, garlic, sage, rosemary, cumin and coriander as well as Fontina, Gruy?, Romano or Parmesan cheeses.

For a quick and nutritious winter soup, saut?eeks or onions, add squash cubes and broth or water, plus the herbs of your choice. Cook until the cubes are soft and then pur?the whole mix before serving. A couple of tablespoons of your favorite miso added at the end will provide beneficial microorganisms, a concentrated protein source and digestive aids. To dress up this soup, swirl in a bit of yogurt, kefir or sour cream and top each bowl with a fresh herb leaf.

Winter squashes store well, but will slowly lose nutrients as they age. Place in a cool, dry location with good air circulation. Check how they are doing every two weeks or so. If there is any sign of soft spots, you can cut these out, cook the squash and store it in the freezer for later use.

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