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Tasty Recipes with Winter Squash

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - 7:00am

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about tasty recipes with winter squash. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Kristin Whisenhunt, Dietetic Intern at Mississippi State University, who's currently in her rotation at Mississippi State Extension Service.

So today we're talking about winter squash and how we can best utilize this versatile vegetable. Kristin, thank you so much for joining me today.

Kristin Whisenh: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Amy Myers: So, winter squash has many health benefits and can be grown right here in Mississippi, but winter squash is a broad term, right? Can you explain the different types?

Kristin Whisenh: There are actually many different types of winter squash, such as butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash. They are all typically planted around the same time and in the same family, which is why they are all under the same name.

Amy Myers: Does that mean they grow in the winter?

Kristin Whisenh: No. They are actually planted in the summer, in July or early August, because they take about 90 days to grow and ripen. Planting them early allows them to survive through the first frost. Then they are harvested in October and November once the rind is hard and deep in color. The term winter squash comes from the fact that they have a thick rind, which allows them to last through the winter.

Amy Myers: Once the squash is harvested, how should it be stored?

Kristin Whisenh: It needs to be stored in a cool, dark place so that it will last as long as possible. A good place for this is in your vegetable drawer in your refrigerator. If I have already cut and peeled it, I store it in a covered container in the refrigerator for a week at the most. When I have a lot of squash and want to use it in the off season, I like to freeze it. The best way to do this is by peeling and cubing it. If it is sealed well, it can last up to a year. When I do decide to freeze it, the best way for me to prepare it is to use it in a dish.

Amy Myers: What are some of your favorite ways to prepare it?

Kristin Whisenh: There are many ways to cook this squash, which makes it such a good staple to have, because I don't get bored with it. It can be baked, steamed or put into dishes. One of my favorite recipes is making it into soup. I like to do this in a slow cooker so it is ready when I get home. I just put the peeled squash, some onions and carrots, broth and whatever seasoning I feel like that day into the slow cooker on low. Then when I get home, I just have to blend it together and add some cream. This makes it easy for those days that I am busy.

Another easy and fast way to prepare it is to peel and cube it. Then you can just add some oil and seasoning, and throw it in the oven. This gives you a good vegetable as a side to your meal.

We can also save waste by using a part of the squash that many people typically throw away. I like to set aside the squash seeds and roast them with a little bit of oil and salt. This gives me a healthy snack while also utilizing more parts of the squash.

Amy Myers: You mentioned health benefits of winter squash. What are some big ones that we should remember?

Kristin Whisenh: It's actually a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, fiber and manganese. And it also has alpha and beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A. And then this vegetable can also help regulate and control blood sugars.

Amy Myers: And I understand that winter squash also has antioxidant properties in it, and anti-inflammatory properties also. What about folks that are on a low carb diet? Is this a good choice?

Kristin Whisenh: Yes, it is a very good choice because it offers us more nutrients than a lot of the other side dishes we use. It's lower in carbs compared to the rolls, the french fries, the white baked potatoes we like to eat a lot with our meals.

Amy Myers: What about frying the squash? Is this the kind of squash that we can fry?

Kristin Whisenh: Well, we don't recommend frying anything because it's not as healthy, but typically summer squashes are fried, and these are different from our winter squashes because winter squashes have a harder rind and the skin isn't as edible as it is with our summer squashes.

Amy Myers: Okay, so because of the outside harder surface, it's not as feasible to fry it because you can't cut it as easily.

Kristin Whisenh: Right, and it's not going to be as edible and as easy to eat.

Amy Myers: And of course, fried food is really not healthy anyway. How can we find more information about winter squash?

Kristin Whisenh: There's a lot of good information through Extension agencies, and a good website to use would be the Illinois Extension, which is extension.illinois.edu.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Kristin Whisenhunt, Mississippi State University Dietetic Intern. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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