Want to start cooking with squash but don’t know where to start? Butternut squash is readily available, easy to prepare and store, and has a sweet and buttery flavor you’ll love! You can use butternut squash in a hearty soup, as a replacement for potatoes, or in a rich vegetarian main dish. Roasted butternut squash topped with cinnamon and maple syrup makes a hearty and healthy treat that satisfies your sweet tooth.
You’ll also appreciate butternut squash for its wide spectrum of nutritional benefits. It has a large amount of important beta-carotene, evidenced by its orange color. Plus, it contains a variety of vitamins and minerals that boost your immune system, making it the perfect vegetable to enjoy during the cold and flu season.
Butternut squash is large and heavy. Usually about 6 to 10 inches long, the vegetable has a stretched bell shape with a narrow top and bulbous bottom, much like a bowling pin. Butternuts have a light orange rind and deep orange flesh.
Butternut squash lives up to its name with a rich, sweet, buttery flavor. It can be a creamy substitute for pumpkin in both savory and sweet dishes.
Butternut squash is readily available in major supermarkets throughout the year.
High season for butternut squash is September through March in the US, and July through January in Europe.
Look for a gourd that feels heavy and solid. If the squash is lightweight, the flesh may be dried out. The exterior should be firm and unblemished. The rind should be hard and dull, not soft and glossy.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. Winter squash such as butternut falls halfway between the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists, which means you should consider sourcing it organically if pesticides are a concern for you.
The Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Butternut squash is a perfect vegetable to keep on hand for last-minute preparation (perhaps contributing to its popularity). You can keep uncooked, uncut butternut squash in a cool, dark place for up to three months. Once cut, refrigerate butternut squash and use within three days.
Wash the entire squash under cool running water and pat dry. Place a towel under a cutting board for stability, cut off the short ends of the butternut, and with a large carving knife, carefully slice it lengthwise from neck to bulb. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and set them aside. Remove and discard the stringy substance.
From here, you can roast a butternut squash whole and remove the flesh just before serving, slice the squash into thick rings and roast, or peel the halved squash and cube the flesh to sauté or add to soups. If roasting whole, you have the opportunity to add fillings (sweet or savory) to the space where the seeds were. Some options include chopped apples mixed with butter and spices, or seasoned ground white turkey meat or seitan.
Remember the seeds? They’re delicious! Wash them and pat dry. Place in a shallow roasting pan and season with cumin, salt, and pepper, or another seasoning choice, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast on low heat until seeds start to pop. Eat them out-of-hand or add them to soups and salads.
A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.
Far more than protecting the body from the common cold, this immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk.
Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.
Magnesium is responsible for promoting cardiovascular health, muscle contraction, and relaxation, energy production, and proper bone formation. This essential nutrient may also be helpful in regulating healthy blood-sugar levels, decreasing the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E is present in everyday neurological functions and may play a role in protecting the brain from cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E is essential for scavenging free radicals, supplying them with their much-needed electron pair. Eyesight, skin, and the immune system are all positively benefited through vitamin E intake.
Packed full of carotenoids, winter squash such as butternut gives you hearty doses of beta-carotene and lutein, both properties that aid in cancer prevention and improved eye health. Because butternut squash has a tremendous amount of vitamins A and C, it’s the perfect cold-weather vegetable to help boost your immune system.
- Butternut squash is also called the African Bell and “the apple of God,” the latter because Native Americans believed eating squash seeds improved fertility.
- Iroquois Indians planted “The Three Sisters”: squash, beans, and maize (corn) as primary sustenance, and many other Native American tribes did as well.
- Squash such as the butternut originated in Mexico and Guatemala nearly 10,000 years ago.