I love to drive past farm markets at this time of the year and see the colorful displays of squash, pumpkins and other fall vegetables on display. And, of course, I love even more to park and go inside and buy armfuls of produce, as much for decoration as for cooking.
Squash is uniquely American, originating here some 10,000 years ago, and was a Native American crop whose name derives from akutasquash, or "eaten raw."
I only remember one variety of squash when I was growing up in England, and that was a horrible mushy zucchini-like vegetable called a marrow. It was either boiled or stuffed and baked, and was one of the several foods our dogs learned to like because most of my helpings, as well as those dished out to my sister, ended up under the table.
All squash take up a lot of ground, and so I have never grown the winter squash, which is so delicious.
This summer I am the proud grower of an enormous gourd vine that is madly producing little gourds which I hope to dry and paint. It is so prolific, I cut it way back a month or so ago, but it has re-grown and once again is weighing down the arbor.
Summer squash is a bad keeper without refrigeration, and the green and yellow varieties mold very easily.
There is great danger at this time of the year of finding a pile of zucchini on the back steps, kindly shared by friends and neighbors whose bountiful supplies have to be shared. I have a few recipes I use occasionally, but my appetite is limited.
Winter squash comes in many sizes and shapes and colors, and I love them all. Unless following a specific recipe I find the best way to cook them is to cut in large pieces, remove seeds and stringy fibers, and then bake, steam, boil or microwave until soft.
Then scoop out of the skin and mash or serve in chunks.
With a lot of butter, salt and pepper, of course.
Acorn squash are available year-round, and can be halved and stuffed with sausage or a hamburger mixture, then baked.
Butternuts are the beige colored squash shaped like a vase. Their skin is softer and can be peeled easily. They have a nutty flavor; the deeper the color, the sweeter they are.
Spaghetti squash is a favorite, and I find children who refuse most vegetables can be conned into a dish of this with copious amounts of spaghetti sauce.
Whitish ones are not ready to eat - the darker yellow ones are the more flavorful.
Small squash of all types can be baked, scooped out and filled with a serving of soup. That creamy corn, winter squash and carrot, or broccoli soup found in wax cartons in the grocery store is wonderful served that way, with a pitcher of soup on the side for refills. And a loaf of warm, crusty bread with butter. Yes!
In many ways it is sad to see fall approaching, but treats like these are something to look forward to on a nippy, windy day.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
Contact her at: