As a member of the gourd family, the butternut squash is a close relative to the pumpkin. This winter squash is a delicious food that was consumed and used by the early Native Americans. It was not until the early 19th century that the butternut squash was grown and eaten quite regularly. Unlike other squashes, this unique variety provides ample, orange, edible flesh, and a small inner cavity that has few seeds. These attributes along with a thin skin, make it a very popular food among many cultures.
Nutritional Benefits of the Butternut Squash
As a member of the winter squash family, the butternut squash is overflowing with many nutrients. This squash is considered a fruit because of its seeds; however it is actually a starchy vegetable due to the carbohydrates that it contains. When selecting one for purchase, it should feel heavy and appear smooth without any marks or blemishes.
A serving (8 ounces) of this winter squash variety contains approximately half of the calories of a serving of pumpkin. Whether boiled, baked, grilled, or steamed, this winter squash is easy to prepare. Since it is low in calories, it makes a wonderful addition to a low fat diet. Once the squash has been prepared and cooked, it should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If storing in the fridge, the squash will last for up to a week. If it is frozen, the cooked squash will keep for about 6 months.
Vitamins and Minerals
Providing more than the daily recommended value of Vitamin A, the this squash variety is a very beneficial food to the eyes and immune system. The butternut squash is an excellent source to obtain a moderate amount of Vitamin C as well. Also, this winter squash has plenty of calcium, potassium, and manganese. These minerals are good for supporting the heart, bones, and body tissue.
Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates
In regards to protein and fat content, one cup has a 1/2 gram of fat and 1 gram of protein. Since there is no cholesterol in the squash, it is the perfect food for those who need to follow a healthy heart diet. As for carbohydrates, this starchy vegetable has about 10 grams. However, of those 10 grams, fiber makes up 3 of them. The fiber of a butternut squash will help improve digestion and prevent constipation. Also, studies have shown this squash may help to fight off certain types of cancers.
A number of recipes use this squash as a puree base for soups or pies. It can also be roasted with a little olive oil and fresh or dried herbs to create a great savory side dish for lunch or dinner. With its deep, sweet flavor and bright orange flesh, the butternut squash is probably one of the easiest and healthiest foods to add to the daily diet. They are available year-round and can be found in most supermarkets, specialty produce stores and farmers markets.
How To Choose and Use Butternut Squash
Selecting the Right Squash
To select a butternut squash, make sure there are no green stripes running down the sides. The outside color should be tan in color, while the flesh inside should be a deep orange. Also, check for any blemishes or deep scratches on the outer skin. In regards to what is considered an appropriate size, the length should be about 8 to 12 inches.
Preparation and Cooking
To prepare a butternut squash, it must first be peeled and then cut into halves. A regular vegetable peeler is perfect for taking the outer skin off. Once opened, the seeds and pulp need to be removed. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds and pulp away from the firm flesh of the squash. The seeds can easily be roasted by placing on a baking pan and drizzled with olive oil and salt. Place in a preheated 350 F for 10-15 minutes and check for crispness. Roasted seeds can be used as a garnish atop butternut squash soup, or eaten alone as a snack.
This fruit can be grilled, roasted, steamed, or boiled. Upon cooking it, this variety of winter squash can be made into many various dishes. From soups and casseroles to breads or muffins, this winter squash is a very versatile food. Also, it is packed full of vitamins like Vitamin C, E, and A. When seasoning this type of squash, it is important to note that it can either take on a sweet or savory flavor depending on the style of recipe.
When storing butternut squash that has not been cut and cooked, remember to keep it out of sunlight. By storing in a cool, dry place, a butternut squash will be edible for up to six months. However once the squash is cut open, it will need to be covered, stored in the refrigerator, and consumed within a few days. Upon cooking the squash, regardless of the recipe, it can be placed in a resealable freezer bag or freezer safe container and frozen for 3 to 6 months.
The butternut squash is a very healthy addition to the daily diet because it is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Also, this particular squash is very low in calories and contains plenty of fiber, potassium, and manganese. No matter how it may be prepared, it is not only an extremely healthy food, but also a divinely delicious one too.
Butternut Squash Recipe Ideas
Butternut squash is a very versatile food in the kitchen. Whether boiled or baked, it can be made into soups, pies, souffles, and breads. Also, it can be a flavorful addition to risotto or casseroles. Since it is such a close relative to the pumpkin, any recipe that calls for pumpkin can easily be substituted with a butternut squash. Actually, they can be used in a wide array of recipes.
One of the most popular ways to serve this winter squash is pureed into a smooth and creamy soup. Warm and filling, this soup makes any autumn evening complete. From slightly sweet to bold and savory, this soup recipe is capable of suiting any personal flavor choice. Try adding raviolis stuffed with sausage, beef, or chicken, to make this recipe into a hearty one dish dinner.
Another delectable way to prepare butternut squash is by way of a galette. This rustic French tart is indescribably the perfect vehicle for serving a mixture of apples, butternut squash, thyme, and rosemary. Once the pastry dough is pulled up around the mixture and brushed with butter, the open face tart is baked for about 55 minutes. In the last five minutes of baking, remove from oven, sprinkle with shredded Gruyere, and bake until cheese is melted. Another delicious way to serve it is through the use of ravioli. The small filled pasta allow a great deal of freedom in sweet and savory filling choices and can be prepared well ahead of time and cooked in minutes.
This delicious winter squash variety is a sensible source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Eaten regularly, it can help to lower cholesterol levels and improve digestion. One cup of the squash flesh will provide 3 grams of fiber, about 60 calories, and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Whether served as a side dish, dessert, or main course, it is deliciously healthy.
Winter squash offer chefs and home cooks the opportunity to create delicious dishes and butternut squash is at the head of the class. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and fine texture.