Squash for all Seasons

Pumpkins are showing up all over our small town. I love to decorate with pumpkins and we also love to eat pumpkin. Thanksgiving is not complete at my home without a First Place pumpkin pie.

I have had several questions recently about the difference between summer and winter squash. Since they are distinctive, I would like to offer a little information on these two types of squash.

When the Europeans arrived in the New World, they found a settlement of healthy eaters who based their diet largely on corn, beans, and squash. Squash comes in two seasonal categories. Winter squash is hard-skinned and in the past was available in the fall and winter months. Soft-skinned summer squash in the past was grown in the spring and summer gardens. Both are now available all year long.

Summer squash such as zucchini, yellow straightneck, yellow crookneck, patty pan, chayote and others are about 95% water; therefore, they contain fewer calories. Summer squash, though lower in calories, are packed with nutrients (350 milligrams of potassium, and 10 milligrams of vitamin C, plus about 2 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving.

Summer squash is good raw or cooked. You may eat it peeled or unpeeled. It can be sliced, diced or cooked whole. It is best small to medium sized, firm, unblemished and heavy for their size. Cook summer squash with other vegetables, such as onions, garlic, and tomato. Use as a dipping vegetable, or add to soups, salads, and stews. It is best to refrigerate summer squash and use within a couple of days.

Winter squash such as acorn, butternut, hubbard, banana, spaghetti, turban and pumpkin have 3 to 4 times as many calories as summer squash. Winter squash is considered a nutritional bargain. Each one-cup serving has 1,000 milligrams of potassium, 46 micrograms of folate, plus other B vitamins, 27 milligrams of magnesium. They are considered a nutritional bargain. A cup of butternut squash will also provide a generous amount of beta carotene (10 milligrams). Pumpkin will pack in 16 milligrams of beta-carotene and is a top source of lutein, which is another eye-healthy carotenoid. A cup serving offers about 3 grams of fiber.

Choose unblemished squash, heavy for their size. Splitting winter squash requires a sharp, sturdy knife, a cutting board, and a little caution. Split it, scoop out the seeds, and then, bake, steam, or microwave it in the shell. Large winter squash are delicious stuffed with other vegetables, ground meat, or breadcrumbs. The flesh can be pureed for soups. Many markets sell winter squash split, or peeled and cubed. Canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh. Uncut winter squash will keep at room temperature for weeks. Refrigeration causes them to deteriorate.

I have a great recipe for beef stew that includes pumpkin. Pumpkin is included in the recipe and you serve the stew from the pumpkin shell. Delight your entire family by serving your favorite stew in the pumpkin shell.

Our New First Place Favorites Recipe Book has great recipes for all types of squash. They include:

* Creamy Pumpkin Soufflé (page 61)
* Vegetable Pesto Fettuccine (page 109)
* Seafood Primavera (page101)
* Squash Casserole (page 142)
* Zucchini Casserole (page 142)
* Confetti Party Salad (page 146)
* Butternut Squash Soup (page 156)
* Italian Garden Soup (page 157)
* Mega Chicken Vegetable Soup (page 158)
* Pasta e Fagioli (page 158)

The Original First Place Favorites Recipe Book has two of my favorite pumpkin pie recipes on pages 242 and 243. All of our First Place recipe books can be ordered from Gospel Light at 1-800-GOSPEL, or through the First Place website at www.firstplace.org .

May God Bless Each of You with a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Kay Smith
First Place Associate Director

Kay is the associate national director of First Place and has been on the First Place staff since 1987.

Kay is a popular speaker at retreats, seminars, Conferences, FOCUS Weeks and Workshops across the country. Kay is the First Place food exchange expert and writes a monthly article in the First Place E-Newsletter on nutrition. She also was a contributing writer to the Today Is the First Day devotional book. Her delightful personality and love for people endears her to everyone she meets, and they quickly become her new best friend.

Kay and her husband, Joe, live in Roscoe, TX. They have two children and five grandchildren. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit, and the three oldest grandsons are all involved in numerous sporting events, which Kay and Joe attend as often as possible.