By Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator
Some squash, like butternuts, can be enjoyed long into the season. Even in March, they still taste pretty darn good. But there’s a whole other group of lesser-known squash that are amazingly delicious, but they just don’t keep quite as well. Come December, they’re already becoming bland and mealy. So, take advantage of the fresh harvest, and check out one of my favorite winter squashes: The Delicata. These small, long, white-green-yellow-orange striped squash (and the closely related dumpling squash that have similar skin but are more round in shape) are among my favorites because you can eat *everything* and they are super easy to prepare (and super delicious to eat).
Delicatas and dumplings really call to be roasted, and please don’t bother peeling them. Once roasted, the skins are completely edible and surprisingly pleasant. Roasting also brings out the innate buttery sweetness of the squash. Delicata has a nice texture, fantastic flavor, and almost a hint of the taste of farm-fresh corn. (Perhaps I’m not alone in thinking it tastes like something other than winter squash… other common names for delicatas are “sweet potato squash” and “peanut squash.”) I almost always cut my delicata into cubes and roast them, but they’re also fantastic stuffed, holding their shape much better than, ah hem, some *other* winter squash, and also being more appropriately sized for single servings.
Be sure your delicatas are farm-fresh – like they are at the Co-op right now or straight from the farm stand. When delicatas start to turn, they don’t look any worse, they just taste terrible. Beware grocery stores stocked with squash from who knows where who knows how long ago. As pretty as the delicatas look on the shelves in your kitchen, don’t wait too long to cook them, either. It’s because of this short shelf life that delicatas aren’t more common in stores; they’re actually relatively easy to grow in NH. Now is the time to cook it!
Roasted Squash Recipe
This is a super easy side for autumn. You can add other seasonings if you’d like (rosemary, cinnamon, or Cajun seasonings are popular). As mentioned, you can also leave it cut in half and stuff it with goodies. (Pre-bake the squash til it’s almost tender, then fill it with mostly-cooked ingredients, then bake them all together a tad longer.)
Preheat the oven to 420F. Chop the squash in half and gently pull the seeds out of the middle. Feel free to leave any remaining pulp. Chop the whole squash into 1-inch chunks. Drizzle with a good heat-safe oil (tea seed, canola…), sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a single layer on a sheet for approximately 15 minutes. Flip them around, then bake for another 10 minutes or until it’s golden and tender. Enjoy!
Toasted Squash Seeds
Don’t throw the seeds away! All winter squash and pumpkin seeds can be toasted, but delicatas may well be the best of the squash seeds. Small, plump, tender, and delicious. They’re the perfect yummy, healthy snack or appetizer. I often enjoy them alongside dehydrated apple chips.
Rinse off the seeds in a strainer. Pull off any big chunks of pulp, but you don’t need to be obsessive about it. Put them in a single layer on a small baking sheet (I like to make mine in the toaster). No Oil! Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and anything else you’d like (rosemary, cayenne, Cajun seasoning…). Bake at approximately 350F, flipping occasionally, until they are golden and begin to pop (15-20 minutes). They seem to be easier/faster to cook in a toaster oven, but you can play around with a regular oven, too. These don’t last long in our house, but if you find yourself with a surplus, they last for weeks to months in an air-tight container in the pantry.