This week we highlight one of the newest veggies to be developed that is a staple of the grocery produce rack, the butternut squash. This wintertime favorite, with its weird shape, looks like it’s a fun-house-mirror reflection of it’s not so distant cousin, the pumpkin. It’s long neck and bulbous bottom couldn’t have been better designed by an animator for a Disney cartoon. Even though its look is a bit comical, we think it is still a beautiful site because of its delicious flavor. The name suggests it and its creator said it was named that because its taste was “smooth as butter and sweet as a nut.”

In 1944 Charles Leggett of Stow, Massachusetts, started playing around with plant breeding. He was not a professional plant breeder but loved the flavor of pumpkin and other squashes. Having moved from Boston to Stow for health reasons, he also knew that the nutrition of these American born veggies were extremely beneficial. But none of the most common ones were perfect in his mind. He loved the Hubbard squash, developed over 100 years earlier, but it was too big and there was too much waste when he prepared them. He decided he needed a smaller variety but with similar flavor and health benefits. He chose a gooseneck squash as his main progenitor to pair with the Hubbard. After many different trials and selections, he finally had his butternut.

Since he was an amateur at this breeding process he took the new plants to the nearby Waltham Experiment Station, part of the University of Massachusetts center for agriculture research. At first they were skeptical that it could be sustainable, but they continued to develop it and it proved hearty and consistent in reproducing. The University took control of it and called it the Waltham Butternut Squash. Unfortunately for Mr. Leggett, there were no stringent intellectual property rights at that time for new varieties of vegetables, so he never benefited financially from his creation. But at least history has continued to give him credit for the discovery. Now the land where he first grew it is a golf course named the Butternut Farm Golf Club.

While the butternut squash is a relatively new variety, squashes are one of the oldest fruits or vegetables to be cultivated. Remains of them have been found in Mexico and dated back to over 10,000 years ago. Squash, like the potato, were a new veggie for the Europeans who first came to the Americas. Spanish explorers first brought them back to Europe, but they were not that well received initially. Our English name for them came from the Native American Narragansett tribe who the first settlers encountered when they arrived in New England. They called this family of fruits (Yes, technically it’s a fruit not a veggie) “askutasquash” which meant “eaten raw or uncooked.” Hmmmmm…maybe they taste better that way? Well, perhaps, but we prefer them cooked and we have a few recipes below that will confirm our bias.

But back to butternuts, like most other squashes, they are loaded with nutrition. They are a hefty source of Vitamin A, in one serving over 250% of your daily need! Vitamins C and B-6 are also abundant in them. And for your minerals, they are an excellent source of potassium and magnesium.

They are very plentiful during the winter months and your local farmers market and grocery store should have them prominently displayed or perhaps on sale. Even though they are called winter squash, they are grown through the summer season and harvested later in the fall. But they will keep for a long time because of their hard outer shell so that’s why they are a favorite in the wintertime. Butternut were not around when the first settlers from Europe arrived in America, but other winter squashes kept them alive during the harsh cold when food was scarce. They were definitely on the table during the famous story of the Native Americans feeding the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

They take a little more time to prepare than other veggies, but not much and the tiny extra work is well worth it. Slice them in half, spoon out the seeds, spread a little olive oil over each half, place them face down on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then turn them over and sprinkle with salt and pepper or maple syrup and brown sugar and let them roast for another 15 minutes. Of course if you don’t want the sugar, then you can forgo it. These are so delicious without it that you won’t be disappointed. They hardly need any seasoning.

So they are not a lot of work really, but they need time in the oven to get tender, so plan a little ahead if you want it as a side dish. But if you have time to make a soup, there is nothing like a . Make it up on the weekend and have it ready for reheating through the week. But if you are really stretched for time, you might be able to find precut butternut squash in the convenience produce aisle in your local store like .

We hope you will try this relatively new cousin of an ancient variety. We are certain if you do you will be warm and filled. And Mr. Leggett would be so pleased.

This week we highlight one of the newest veggies to be developed that is a staple of the grocery produce rack, the butternut squash.​

SMOOTH AS BUTTER, SWEET AS A NUT

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Here are some great recipes we found for Butternut Squash:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/caramelized-butternut-squash-recipe-1941999

http://www.inspiredtaste.net/25065/cinnamon-roasted-butternut-squash-recipe/

https://communitytable.parade.com/436449/felicialim/the-12-best-butternut-squash-recipes-youll-ever-make/

https://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-butternut-squash-recipes

Some info about the growing of winter squashes

And if you want to try growing them yourself

 

Read this article so see some amazing health benefits of butternut squash

But here they are in summary:

  • Prevents high blood pressure
  • Promotes regularity
  • Improves eye sight
  • Strengthens bones
  • Protects skin
  • Boosts your immunity
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Helps in weight loss

 

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