With fall comes the notorious pumpkin and winter squash. We have seen them showing their shiny oblong and spherical selves at the market of late.
They come in shades of dark green, light yellow and bright orange. They look so beautiful resting themselves on your counter you almost don’t want to eat them. The market welcomes these annual fruits to the table.
The hard-shelled winter squashes are uniquely American, originating in Central America where they grew wild, though they were much more bitter than today’s versions. They were essential as part of The Three Sisters: beans, corn and squash.
The Three Sisters were vital to many civilizations because the corn and beans made a complete protein, the squash brought beta carotene, omega-3s and potassium. Communities could survive on these alone when game and other foods were scarce.
Squash probably evolved around the same time as the other flowering plants, about 350 million years ago. People utilized the flesh but also the dried and hollowed out shells for vessels and floats for fishing nets.
As seeds traveled the Americas various types were bred and then once European conquerors brought squash seeds across the Atlantic more and more varieties were created, particularly around the Mediterranean Sea.
Although we tend to think of winter squash as mainly a carbohydrate, it is an excellent source of immune-supportive vitamin A and free radical-scavenging vitamin C. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, manganese and copper as well as a good source of potassium, vitamin B2, folate, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and niacin.
Winter squash is packed with nutrition and versatile when it comes to cooking. It lends itself nicely to sweet or savory dishes, and is very compatible with coconut and curry.
Here is a recipe that is well-loved in my house.
Thai Red Curry Squash Soup
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or any oil really)
1 large onion, chopped
1 winter squash baked
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2-3 tablespoons red curry paste, to taste
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 (15 ounce) can coconut milk
3/4 cup vegetables or chicken broth
2 teaspoons honey
3-4 cups fresh chopped greens
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute them for 5-6 minutes or until they just begin to get golden.
Scoop out the squash and add the grated ginger. Stir to mix altogether.
Add the red curry paste, yellow curry powder and stir until all the squash is nicely integrated. Continue to cook with the curry paste for 2-3 minutes or until it’s fragrant. Add the broth, coconut milk, and honey.
Let the soup come to a simmer before covering. Add extra broth or water if needed. Stir in the greens and allow to wilt.
Garnish with crushed cashews or peanuts, cilantro, and lime wedges.