Seasonal ingredient: Squash
As we move further into October it is, without a doubt, squash season. Pumpkin spice seems to be in everything and there is no better way to get spooky then some squash based artwork (which you can turn into yummy food after!) So with pumpkins filling crates in store entrances and a whole host of varieties at the market, what should you buy and how should you eat it?
Squash, spice and all things nice
think chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, onion, ginger, garlic and you won’t go too far wrong.
Squash and spices
Pumpkins; best for carving really. These days pumpkins are commercially grown for size and looks over flavour. But if you can get a smaller pie pumpkin from a patch go American and make pumpkin pie with that ever so legendary pumpkin spice mix (2tbsp ground cinnamon, 1tsp ground ginger, 1/2tsp ground allspice, 1/2tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2tsp ground cloves). Half your pumpkin and roast it cut side down for an hour before you make something with the flesh, pumpkin gnocchi is also a must.
Red Kuri; the feature of my #pumpkinwatch on instagram these year and of course not actually a pumpkin. Red Kuri’s have a slightly nutty flavour and you can eat the skin. These guys make amazing mash so cut open & roast with a drizzle of oil before mashing with coconut milk to make extra creamy
Butternut; probably the most common squash we see in the UK and super easy to grow too. You can literally do anything with a butternut squash including making a really good ‘pumpkin’ pie but they are best in soups and purees. Think garlic and chilli.
Spaghetti; a long yellow squash that I’ve yet had the pleasure to cook with but my various cook books inform me that they’re are best boiled whole or halved and baked. You can then use a fork to pull the flesh into noodles which, like spaghetti, you can toss with anything from garlicky butter to pesto
Spices and recipes; really the possibilities are as endless as your imagination when it comes to squash. Roast, mash, puree, soups, stuffed, salads, risottos, gnocchi, pastas… but think chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, onions, ginger, garlic and you won’t go too far wrong. When prepping make sure you use a sturdy knife and start cutting just below the stalk, once you’re in things get easier.
When to harvest (and when to plant)
Happen to cook and eat a really good variety this year? rinse the stringy bits off the seeds and leave somewhere to dry ready to plant in spring.
Harvest time for nearly all squash is September / October / November (otherwise known as Autumn…) and if cured and stored properly they should last well into the new year. Squash are pretty easy to grow, sow seeds in Spring into really enriched earth (dig a whole bunch of manure in earlier in the year) and hope for a good mix of rain & sunshine. Be warned though these plants love to spread and will fling Cinderella style tendrils all over. Happen to cook and eat a really good variety this year? rinse the stringy bits off the seeds and leave somewhere to dry ready to plant in spring.
Squash, especially pumpkins, seem to have a rich history of celebration including several festivals all over the world, the biggest of which seems to be in the German city of Ludwigsburg where they bring in thousands of pumpkins and stack them in shapes dependent on themes. A few years ago a pumpkin dinosaurs created what must have been a very orange Jurassic Park. Aside from the festivals pumpkins are regularly linked with the supernatural including jack-o-lanterns, the legend of sleepy hollow and magical carriages. I think it’s worth noting that the record for the most Jack-O-Lanterns lit in one display is Keene, New Hampshire with 30,581 pumpkins a-glowing, which just sounds like it would be a little bit creepy to me.
The Legend of Stingy Jack
Many, many moons ago, back when you could convince the devil to join you for a drink if you were so inclined, there was a fellow the Irish know as Stingy Jack. He was one of those ne’er-do-well folk who have always been too tricksy to be trusted and too mean for any of his tricks to be good. Legend has it when Jack reached the end of his days his lack of good deeds meant that it was the devil that arrived to take his soul. Now Stingy Jack had sighed, looked at his near empty glass and invited the devil to join him in one last drink and the devil agreed. True to his name though Jack refused to pay for the drinks, suggesting the devil turn into a coin to pay for both. The devil did just that, but instead of paying Jack took the coin and put it in his pocket next to a silver crucifix so the devil could not turn back and kept him there until he was promised another year of his life. Jack continued on his way, until a year later the devil came back to collect his due. This time Jack managed to convince the devil up a tree and trapped him there with crosses carved into the tree until the devil promised another 10 years. This time when the 10 years was up the devil was nowhere in sight and Jack found himself outside heaven’s pearly gates where St Peter promptly turned him away as God would not allow such an unsavoury character in. Jack made his way down to hell and was greeted by a smirking devil who also turned him away, cursing Jack to wander the earth lost forever more. As Jack walked away the devil flicked an ember from burning hell fire to him for light and warmth. Jack took the ember and placed it in a carved turnip holding it out in front of him as a lantern as he made his way. Death does not always change a man and some say he still lures foolish travellers off beaten paths and into danger with his glowing lantern so if you see a light in the distance on a cold autumn night, do not follow it…
Happy Almost Halloween y’all
Rest in peas, love & creeps