Winter squash is a vegetable that was once such an important part of the diet of the Native Americans that they buried it along with the dead to provide them nourishment on their final journey.
The Blue Hubbard probably originated in South America and first arrived New England in the 1700’s aboard sailing ships from the West Indies.
The difference between a winter squash and a summer squash is simply the time of year which they are eaten. The early American settlers gave them those designations. Summer squash are soft-skinned vegetables which grew quickly, and were eaten soon after harvest. Winter squash grew the thick, hard rinds that made them suitable for storing through the long winters when fresh vegetables were a precious commodity.
The Blue Hubbard squash has been described as flaky, floury, melting, nutty and fine-textured…..with brilliant orange flesh”
They are usually a very large squash that can weigh up to 30 lbs. Here at J R Organics we grow a small variety but use care when opening. A small hatchet or saw might work better than a knife.
Phytonutrients that Promote Optimal Health
In research studies, extracts from squash have also been found to help reduce symptoms of a condition occurring in men called benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH.
Winter is as an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash emerged as a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid. How does this amazing array of nutrients support our health?
One of the most abundant nutrients in winter squash, beta-carotene, has been shown to have very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beta-carotene is able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is the type that builds up in blood vessel walls and contributes to the risk of heart attack and stroke, getting extra beta-carotene in the diet may help to prevent the progression of atherosclerosis.
It may also protect against diabetic heart disease and may be useful for preventing other complications caused by free radicals often seen in long-term diabetes. Additionally, intake of foods such as winter squash that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation. Research has suggested that physiological levels, as well as dietary intake, of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.
Studies have also shown that a good intake of beta-carotene can help to reduce the risk of colon cancer, possibly by protecting colon cells from the damaging effects of cancer-causing chemicals.
Finally, beta-carotene’s anti-inflammatory effects may help to reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, which all involve inflammation.
Other nutrients found in winter squash are also useful for a number of different conditions. The potassium in winter squash may help to lower blood pressure, and the vitamin C may be able to reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis and also to prevent the progression of conditions like atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
Fiber to Fight Heart Disease and Colon Cancer
In addition to its ability to lower high cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease, the fiber found in winter squash is also able to prevent cancer-causing chemicals from attacking colon cells. This is one of the reasons why diets high in fiber-rich foods have been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Folate to Help Prevent Birth Defects and Heart Attack and Support Colon Health
The folate found in winter squash may help to prevent certain birth defects if taken by women before and during pregnancy. Folate is also needed by the body to break down a dangerous metabolic byproduct called homocysteine, which can directly damage blood vessel walls. Since high levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, getting plenty of folate in the diet is a good idea.
Folate has also been shown to help protect colon cells from the effects of cancer-causing chemicals. In fact, diets high in folate-rich foods are associated with a significantly reduced risk of colon cancer, especially in people who have a history of alcohol use.
Tips for Preparing Winter Squash:
After washing winter squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds and fibrous material in the cavity. Depending upon the recipe preparation, you can either use it peeled or unpeeled.
Alternatively, pierce the squash near the stem with a knife to allow any steam to escape, then bake in a 350°F(175°C) oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until a knife can be easily inserted near the stem. As you would before carving a pumpkin, cut out a small circle around the stem, remove this piece from the squash, and scoop out the seeds and fibrous material in the cavity.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Top puréed cooked winter squash with cinnamon and maple syrup.
Steam cubes of winter squash and then dress with olive oil, tamari, ginger and pumpkin seeds.
Add cubes of winter squash to your favorite vegetable soup recipe.