r e v i s e d a n d e x pa n d e d e d i t i o n

a guide for adventurous cooks, curious shoppers, and lovers of natural foods



S U M M E R S Q UAS H VA R I E T I E S Choose summer squashes that are tender and fresh looking, with skin that is soft enough to puncture with a fingernail. They perish easily, so store them in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible. Chayote (Sechium edule) is a pear-shaped squash native to Mexico and Central America (its name is from the Aztec Nahuatl chayotl). Also known as mango squash, pepinello, and vegetable pear, the chayote has soft, pale skin that varies from creamy white to dark green. Female fruit is smooth-skinned and lumpy, with slight ridges. It is fleshier and preferred over the male fruit, which is covered with warty spines. Although they are furrowed and slightly pitted by nature, they should not look as though these indentations have been made by external forces; nor should they look shriveled, but be completely firm to the touch. Choose smaller chayotes over larger, as they get insipid with size. Use as quickly as possible; if stored in the refrigerator for a week or more, they soon develop an unpleasant, moldy flavor. The pale green flesh is crisp and finely textured, with a taste and consistency that blends cucumber, zucchini, and a bit of kohlrabi. Young chayote need not be peeled, while older ones are best peeled. The fruits, young shoots, leaves, and large fleshy roots are all used as culinary vegetables. Baked or fried, creamed for desserts or soups, chayote may be substituted in any recipe calling for summer squash. However, their bland flavor begs for big, gutsy flavorings—chilies, spices, garlic, tomatoes, or cheese. Their mild, almost nonexistent taste also means they can be, and often are, used in sweet dishes, simmered in a scented syrup like pears and served cold or baked in slices with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, or honey, lemon, and butter. The single large seed, which is edible once cooked, has a taste reminiscent of lima bean and almond. The root, large and tuberous and up to twenty pounds in weight, looks and tastes like a yam. Crookneck and straightneck squash (Cucurbita moschata) ranges from four to six inches long and has a bulbous blossom end. The crookneck has a long, curved neck reminiscent of a goose and bumpy, bright yellow skin and creamy yellow flesh. The straightneck varieties have a straight neck but same bumpy yellow skin. Gooseneck squash (Trichosanthes cucu-meriana), also known as snake squash, is a curled, eye-catching squash native to southeast Asia and Australia, but it can 226

be grown in America and Europe. Eaten in the summer when immature and thin-skinned, it is usually sliced into rounds and steamed or boiled and served with butter, salt, pepper, and herbs such as tarragon, dill, or marjoram. Pattypan or scallop squash looks rather like a thick, round pincushion with scalloped edges. They are their best when they do not exceed four inches in diameter and are pale green rather than their mature white or cream. Their flesh has a somewhat buttery taste, and the skin, flesh, and seeds are all edible. Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a large, oblong summer squash with smooth, lemon-yellow skin. Once cooked, the creamy golden flesh separates into miles of swirly, crisp-tender, spaghetti-like strands. The taste is quite bland, lightly sweet and fresh, its light squash flavor making a perfect saucing medium. Look for very hard, smooth, evenly colored squash without ridges, spots, or bumps. Avoid greenish, honeydew-colored squash, which may be immature or have sprouting seeds. Larger spaghetti squash have better flavor and thicker strands. Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), called marrow by the British, courgette by the French, and zucchini by the Italians, is by far the most popular summer squash. This prolific, shiny green squash ranges in size from four inches to baseball bat size but is best when five to eight inches long; longer zucchini tend to have seeds that are large, tough, and preferably removed before using. Unrivaled in versatility, zucchini may be eaten raw in salads, marinated, stir-fried, stuffed and baked, puréed for soups or sauces, or even made into pickles and marmalade. The blossoms are a special delicacy, tossed into a salad or batter-dipped and deep-fried or stuffed with a combination of cheese, meat, herbs, nuts, eggs, bread crumbs, rice, or potatoes. The world’s longest zucchini was raised by Nick Balaci of Johnson City, New York, who grew a 691⁄ 2-inch Romanian zucchini in 1987. W I N T E R S Q UAS H VA R I E T I E S Choose winter squashes with thick rinds that are heavy for their size and free of soft spots. They are hardy and will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dry place, such as a basement.
Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo), sometimes called table queen, is shaped like a giant, ribbed acorn with a defi-


nite pointed end. The slightly dry, orange-colored flesh of both green and golden varieties has a distinct nutlike flavor, with the golden variety tending to be a little sweeter and the green moister. Their large seed cavities are perfect for stuffing, and they are best when baked. Unlike most winter squashes, acorns do not contain much beta carotene, but they are still considered medicinal for the stomach and spleen. Banana squash (Cucurbita maxima) is very large, long, and cylindrical and may weigh up to thirty pounds. Its thick, hard skin ranges in color from pale yellow to ivory, and its finely textured flesh is creamy orange or pink, sweet, and dry. Often available cut into manageably sized pieces, this squash is excellent combined with baked potatoes. Butternut squash (Caryoka nuciferum) is reminiscent of a peanut in shape and color, with a large, round, fleshy bottom that encloses the seeds and a cylindrical upper part that is solid flesh. Its smooth hard skin is a deep butterscotch color (avoid those with streaks of green), and its flesh is a deep orange, with a distinctive butterscotch flavor that most people find delicious. Very small butternuts are especially sweet, and because their skins are thinner than those of other winter squash, they may be cooked and puréed with the skin intact. Steamed or baked like other squashes, they make excellent single servings when cut in half, cooked until soft, then served with a topping of butter and maple syrup. Calabaza (Cucurbita moschata) are huge squashes whose mottled skin may be evergreen, sunset, or buff, speckled or striated, though they are always relatively smooth and hardshelled when mature. Usually sold in chunks or slices, since few could tote the entire large vegetable, this versatile squash may be easily substituted for any other winter squash in dishes where it does not stand alone. The best calabazas are fine-grained, sweet, moist but not watery, and ravishingly orange. Delicata (Cucurbita pepo) is an elongated green and tanstriped squash with tender yellow flesh. Also called bohemian or sweet potato squash, it first arrived on

the scene as early as 1894, introduced by the Peter Henderson Company of New York City. The size and shape of a large cucumber, the delicata has a moist, creamy yellow flesh that tastes and smells like a blend of corn, butternut squash, and sweet potato. Younger squashes may have skins tender enough to eat once cooked. They are best when steamed or baked and are not recommended for soups or baking into desserts. Golden nugget (Cucurbita maxima) is a small round squash that looks like a miniature fairy-tale pumpkin. Salmon-colored, with a finely ridged, very hard shell, this squash was developed at North Dakota State University in 1966 and is a close relative of the acorn squash. The moist, smooth, bright orange flesh has a mild squash flavor, which can range from delightfully sweet and buttery to not-so-sweet and dull-bland. Choose those that have a dull, matte look to the rind; a shiny finish indicates that the squash was picked immature and will be tasteless. Golden nuggets can be opened like pumpkins, scooped clean, brushed inside with butter and seasonings, and baked whole. They can also be split and baked like acorn squash. Hubbards (Cucurbita maxima) are named after Elizabeth Hubbard of Massachusetts and are an old, extensive group of squashes that are usually plump and round in the middle, with tapered necks. Ranging from dark green to blue-gray and orange-red and weighing from five to twenty pounds, these warty, thick-skinned squashes have sweet, dry, orange flesh. Excellent in pumpkin pie, they have a thicker, firmer texture than fresh pumpkin, “set up” easier, and require less sugar. Kabocha is a generic grouping for many strains of Japanese pumpkin and winter squash of both Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata species. Resembling the buttercup or turban squash, with its flattened drum or turban shape, they range from one to seven pounds, with rough, mottled rinds that are thick and deep green (sometimes orange), with paler uneven stripes and markings. The mustard-yellow flesh is sweet and rich-tasting,



tender and floury dry, like a balance between sweet potato and pumpkin. Almost fiberless and with the highest sugar content of any squash, it is excellent baked with butter and served as a side dish or stuffed with vegetables for a main course. Pumpkin—see separate reference. Turban (Cucurbita maxima), also called buttercup, was developed in 1932 at North Dakota Agricultural College (now State University) by Dr. A. F. Yeager. Long esteemed by many growers as the ideal winter squash, this turban-shaped squash with its distinctive pale “beanie” is hard, thin-skinned, and dark bluish green with dramatic reddish-orange flecks and stripes; it ranges in size from three to five pounds. The bright orange flesh is tender, sweet, and custardy smooth when steamed; when baked it is denser and drier. It may be used in any manner you would butternut or acorn squash.

Sweet Potato
(Ipomoea batatas) Also Known As: Batata, Boniato
The scientific name comes from the Greek ips, meaning “worm” or “bindweed,” and homoios, meaning “like” or “similar to,” since Carolus Linnaeus—the eighteenthcentury Swedish botanist, famed for his system of plant classification—thought the twining vines looked unpleasantly like worms. The plants were called batatas in their native West Indies and southern United States.

General Information Sweet potatoes are not related to potatoes or yams but are a plump, smooth-skinned, tuberous member of the morning glory family native to the West Indies and southern United States. Discovered by Columbus on his second trip to the New World, the sweet potato was sent back to Spain in 1494 along with many other new foods. The Chinese found the sweet potato in the Philippines in

Squash, Winter / Nutritional Value Per 100 g Edible Portion
Acorn Raw Acorn Cooked Butternut Raw Butternut Cooked Hubbard Raw Hubbard Cooked

Calories Protein Fat Fiber Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Beta Carotene (A) Thiamine (B1) Riboflavin (B2) Niacin (B3) Pantothenic Acid (B5) Pyridoxine (B6) Folic Acid (B9) Ascorbic Acid (C) Tocopherol (E)

40 0.80 g 0.10 g 1.40 g 33 mg 0.70 mg 32 mg 36 mg 347 mg 3 mg 0.130 mg 0.065 mg 340 IU 0.140 mg 0.010 mg 0.700 mg 0.400 mg 0.154 mg 16.7 mcg 11.0 mg n/a

56 1.12 g 0.14 g 1.96 g 44 mg 0.93 mg 43 mg 45 mg 437 mg 4 mg 0.170 mg 0.086 mg 428 IU 0.167 mg 0.013 mg 0.881 mg 0.504 mg 0.194 mg 18.7 mcg 10.8 mg n/a

45 1.00 g 0.10 g 1.40 g 48 mg 0.70 mg 34 mg 33 mg 352 mg 4 mg 0.150 mg 0.072 mg 7,800 IU 0.100 mg 0.020 mg 1.200 mg 0.400 mg 0.154 mg 26.7 mcg 21.0 mg n/a

40 0.90 g 0.09 g 1.26 g 41 mg 0.60 mg 29 mg 27 mg 284 mg 4 mg 0.130 mg 0.065 mg 7,001 IU 0.072 mg 0.017 mg 0.969 mg 0.359 mg 0.124 mg 19.2 mcg 15.1 mg n/a

40 2.00 g 0.50 g 1.40 g 14 mg 0.40 mg 19 mg 21 mg 320 mg 7 mg 0.130 mg 0.064 mg 5,400 IU 0.070 mg 0.040 mg 0.500 mg 0.400 mg 0.154 mg 16.4 mcg 11.0 mg n/a

50 2.48 g 0.62 g 1.74 g 17 mg 0.47 mg 22 mg 23 mg 358 mg 8 mg 0.150 mg 0.045 mg 6,035 IU 0.074 mg 0.047 mg 0.558 mg 0.447 mg 0.172 mg 16.2 mcg 9.5 mg n/a