Every so often I like to try cooking a vegetable that I’ve never tried before, and last night it was Buttercup Squash. Buttercup squash is a winter squash and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables. Other types of winter squash include Acorn squash, Butternut squash, Delicata, Hubbard squash, Kabocha, Pumpkin, and Spaghetti squash to name just a few common varieties. Many folks are probably already familiar with pumpkin and spaghetti squash, but some of the other varieties may be new to many individuals.
The different varieties of winter squash come in various shapes, colors and sizes, but they all have a hard, thick skin that is difficult to pierce, and they can typically be stored for a long time – for several months. As the name suggests, they are fall vegetables and are typically in season during October and November.
Why Eat Winter Squash?
So why should we eat winter squash? Well, all varieties of winter squash are a great source of several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese. The vitamins A and C are both important antioxidants; vitamin A also has important anti-inflammatory benefits and helps preserve eyesight, and vitamin C has been shown to improve iron absorption and help prevent colds and infections in the body. The mineral potassium helps reduce blood pressure and regulate sodium levels in the body, and manganese is not only another antioxidant, but is also a component in maintaining bone health. Winter squash also provide good amounts of folate (which helps reduce the incidence of birth defects when taken before and during pregnancy), vitamin B1, copper, some omega-3 fatty acids (important anti-inflammatory agents), and a good amount of dietary fiber. Plus, they are a relatively lower calorie source of complex carbohydrates – and they taste great 🙂
This article on winter squash provides a description of the health benefits and the nutritional profile of winter squash, and a brief summary of their history.
Last night, I roasted my buttercup squash in the oven with a spritz of olive oil, and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, black pepper and cinnamon, at 375 F for 45 minutes. Then sliced it up and served it with a dab of butter, along with some roasted broccoli, sautéed greens, a small side of couscous and some BBQ baked tofu. A very balanced vegetarian meal. Taste-wise, the buttercup squash was quiet delicious; it has a dense texture, and is now my second favorite next to butternut squash – which has a slightly sweeter flavor and a lighter texture.
Winter squash can also be steamed and served cubed as a vegetable side dish, or mashed and served instead of mashed potatoes. Spaghetti squash, as the name suggests, can be roasted and then served as a substitute for pasta – by running a fork through the cooked flesh and pulling off long strands of “spaghetti.” I have yet to master the art of generating elegant strands of spaghetti from spaghetti squash – but that is next on the agenda. Till then, I have leftover buttercup to work my way through…roasted skin and all 🙂
If you haven’t yet tried winter squash, or have only tried a couple of varieties, I encourage you to select one of the ones I mentioned above and try it this fall. The nutritional benefits of this vegetable are certainly good enough reason to do so – but just for the taste even – it really is worth the effort of roasting and slicing them up for dinner one night!
Here are some more articles on the different varieties of winter squash: