In Between Spring and Winter

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By Heidi Lewis

A bounty of winter squash are starting to roll in—a fabulous array of colors, textures, and shapes.  Just like the American population, they have an international palette of  names, such as: turban, Hubbard, Hokkaido, and butternut. Named for  outstanding characteristics or in homage—for example, the turban squash  mimics the shape of the familiar headdress, and the Hubbard is thought to  be named after Elizabeth Hubbard, who purportedly distributed the seeds  in the mid-19th century—there are 350 known varieties of squash, falling  into two general camps of summer and winter.

The interesting green-and-tan-striped delicata squash (Italian for  “delicate”) is technically a winter squash  because of its hard shell. Yet, it should really be classified as something  in-between, like autumn-ish squash, as it has both the soft characteristics  of summer and the sweet taste of winter breeds. Delicata are species  Cucurbita pepo along with acorn, spaghetti, and carnival squashes.

Delicata is an heirloom variety also known as Bohemian squash—the name  gives away a bit of its history. It was originally introduced by the Peter  Henderson Company of New York City in 1894 and was a popular squash  through the 1920s. Mr. Henderson provided seeds and literature about  gardening for market from his five-acre, glass-covered greenhouse in  Jersey City, NJ. In light of the name Bohemian or delicata, it’s interesting  to note that from 1880–1910, the population of New York City was at least  40% immigrants, many from Central and Southern Europe.

One cup of this squash has 1.7 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, and only  40 calories. That’s not counting the butter. Delicatas come from a big  American family—enjoy their bounty.

Preparation: Truly delicate for a winter squash, delicatas can be peeled (or  not!) and sliced or cubed. Steamed, baked, or broiled with a complement  of curry, apples, or maple syrup make wonderful, warming dishes.

Storage: Delicata store well in a cool, dry (preferably dark) place for a few  weeks, but unlike true winter squash, they don’t convert starch to sugar  over time and “cure” like butternuts, and will therefore not keep as long.

 

 

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