New York City Greenmarkets are seething with colorful winter squashes, all members of the genus Cucurbita. They differ from summer squashes like zucchini in that they display a very tough rind, with mature seeds inside that may be separated, toasted, and salted to make an excellent snack. They’re called winter squashes because – even though they’re harvested in October – they can be kept through the winter and used at your leisure.
The English word “squash” come from the Naragansett Indian word “askootasquash.” Though it means “eaten raw,” the Indians more often baked squash with maple syrup, and ground up the seeds — as Mexican cooks now do — to make thickening pastes for stews.
Winter squashes may be baked by cutting in half, scooping out the seeds and other innards, and then simply roasted, with just a dab of butter or tablespoon of olive oil in the middle and a little sea salt. They can also be skinned and cleaned, and then cut into cubes to make curry, or boiled and pureed to make mashed pumpkin (another general name for winter squash, though we use it principally to refer to the big orange jack-o-lantern pumpkin). Note that gourds are in the same genus , but are allowed to dry in the fields before harvesting.
Here is a collection of the winter squashes we found this weekend at the Greenmarkets. (All pictures may be enlarged by clicking on the image.)