Here’s your next riddle…
If you buy a big one of these
Then you surely will not starve.
As what’s inside can feed many,
And they’re also good to carve!
What’s your guess?… A pumpkin? You got it!
This November in Farm to School, we are learning about the greatest fall harvest, a crop that stores for a very long time and will keep us fed and healthy all winter long… it’s winter squash! Or “wassawa” that means squash and pumpkin in the Abenaki language. The Abenaki were the first Vermonters to grow squash many thousands of years ago. They developed the jack-o-lantern pumpkin we love at Halloween. And the pie pumpkin that is a sweet treat. Abenaki grandparents passed down to us the seeds that we still grow today! There are SO many types of winter squash out there. Farmer Fae has a few of my favorites growing on her farm:
In order to use up the entire winter squash, we can use a practice called “seed saving”. Saving the seeds of our winter squash will allow us to either plant those seeds in the ground to grow more food, or roast the seeds in the oven for a nutritious yummy snack! Both of these methods allow us to use as much of the squash as we can, and throw less away.
What other fruits or vegetables do we know of that have seeds in them? Maybe a cucumber, tomato, or watermelon? Take a look next time you are eating a fruit or vegetable and see if you can find any seeds. Or try this fun seed saving activity at home!
Winter Squash Seed Saving
- 1 winter squash – pick your favorite!
- Knife and cutting board
- Spoon to scoop the seeds
- Large bowl
- Clean towel and tray
- Cut your winter squash in half by cutting off one end to create a flat surface. Stand your squash on the flat surface. Firmly hold the top with one hand creating a bridge and confidently cut through the middle of your squash with the knife.
- Scoop the seeds into a bowl, and remove any flesh and strings.
- Put the seeds in a strainer and rinse.
- Lay a clean dish towel on a baking tray and spread the seeds evenly across the towel.
- Let the seeds sit in a dry place, out of direct sunlight. Turn seeds over after a couple days and dry further for about 3-7 days.
- Once dry, store in a labeled and decorated envelope in a cool, dry place and save for planting after the last frost next spring. Seeds take care of us as much as we take care of them!
Winter squash are so good for eating too!
Recall what we talked about with sweet potatoes last month… Many orange-colored foods have a lot of vitamin A. Can anyone remember how vitamin A nourishes our bodies? Last time we might have called it a “glow” food.
Vitamin A helps our eyes to see in dim light. It also allows our skin to glow with health and protects our skin from getting a painful sunburn. However, sunscreen is still important during the super sunny parts of the day.
Winter squashes are also full of fiber – something you might remember talking about in our apple lesson! Fiber helps our body absorb all of the nutrients from our food and get rid of waste quickly.
There are so many different ways to cook with winter squash. When we think of cooking with pumpkin, I’m sure many of us think of the sweet treats we all love: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins… yum! However, people with many cultures around the world enjoy pumpkin and other winter squash in savory meals as well; such as stuffed in pastas or stirred into warming soups and stews. You might want to try this roasted squash recipe at home sometime!
Roasted Acorn Squash Rings
Recipe adapted from addapinch.com
- 2 acorn squashes, ½ inch slices
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp local maple syrup or maple sugar (a native sugar)
- Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut out the center of the squash to remove the seeds from each ring.
- Place rings on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.
- Roast in the oven until tender when poked with a fork – about 25 minutes. Flip the rings over halfway through.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
As we use these winter squash in some of our favorite dishes this holiday season, let’s give thanks to the farmers who grew them, the land that nurtured them, and the indigenous seed guardians who saved these seed varieties long ago so we could continue enjoying them today!