Oh my, Winter Squash!

Oh my, we have winter squash….lots of it!

 

In our summer garden in 2011 we grew mostly heirloom vegetable varieties that we started from organic seeds in the fabulous greenhouse that Hans built.

Now, I love vegetables, the fresher the better. We live in an area where I can (and do) buy vegetables from farmers nearby. In fact I rarely buy vegetables from the supermarket with the exception of carrots, which hardly anybody here seems to grow. I tried to grow carrots and failed, but will try again the coming summer with what I hope will be improved softer soil from the masses of manure and organic matter we’ve been adding to the garden.

 

Not having any idea how things might turn out, I planted 5 plants of the heirloom squash called “zucca di Marina di Chioggia”

Chioggia is a comune near Venice that besides squash claims fame to the heirloom Chioggia beet and the heirloom radicchio called Rosso di Chioggia.

 

Some of our winter squashes on the veranda

Winter Squash on the Veranda

There is a fair amount of confusion as to what is an heirloom plant. A pretty good description can be found here http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/heritage/.

Basically, it’s a variety of plant that is not used in industrial agriculture, but rather a variety that has been saved and passed on in families or communities by saving seed. Good for bio-diversity, and often the best tasting vegetables you’ve ever eaten. Really.

Well, all that lovely manure from Lino’s farm made for umm…very prolific squash plants.

Each plant produced on average 5 huge fruits.

Now that’s a lot of squash for 2-3 people.

Thank goodness many friends like squash, and thank goodness it keeps for the winter if cool. A farmer told me I needed to harvest the squash with the full moon or right beforehand if I wanted them to stay fresh all winter, so I did.

Marina di Chioggia is a large very warty, orange/green mottled winter squash with a turban shaped end and a medium dense slightly sweet flesh. Perfect for all sorts of savory dishes, gnocchi, risotto, soup, ravioli and so on. Stay tuned this winter for squash recipes!

Cut open Winter Squash

This last Thanksgiving I discovered it also made the best pumpkin bread as well. (A huge hit with our Italian guests)

Once I cut into a squash I always bake the seeds with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt until they turn golden brown….an irresistible snack.

Seeds ready for the oven

Winter Squash Seeds

And now ready to eat!

baked winter squash seeds

Winter squash can be used in recipes either raw, or pre-cooked and pureed.

Since the marina di Chioggia is so big, I usually use some raw, then cook, purée and freeze whatever is left for future use. It’s a wonderful thing to have a freezer full of ready to use ingredients!

To pre cook squash, cut it into chunks, reserving the seeds to roast for snack, place rind side down on a baking sheet (I like to put a piece of parchment down first)

Bake in a medium hot oven for about 20 minutes or until the flesh is soft.

Cool, scrape the flesh from the rind and mash either with a fork, a food mill, a food processor or a potato masher. Now just divide it into portions and freeze.

Cooked squash ready to purée.

Orange Winter Squash

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