Let's talk about squash... What even is it?

Squash is synonymous with autumn and winter and personally, I absolutely love it. But what actually is squash? 

In short, squash is the umbrella for a whole variety of vegetables that come in different shapes, colours and sizes. From the biggest, brightest orange pumpkin you can imagine to a baby, dark green courgette, squashes can be used in so many different dishes and are very versatile in the kitchen. 

Let’s take pumpkin as an example - it’s known mostly for carving funny faces at Halloween, but many people seem surprised to know it’s actually edible and delicious in all it’s bold, beautiful glory. It’s also associated with traditional Thanksgiving desserts in America when turned into “Pumpkin Pie”, where pureed pumpkin flesh is mixed with sugars, eggs, spices and baked into a shortcrust pastry base, then often served with whipped cream.

Pumpkin seeds are also widely used in different dishes, from adding simple texture to a salad or toasting and blitzing into a hummus-style dip, adding onto yoghurt or mixing into granola. The humble pumpkin seed can also be extracted of its oil and used as a healthy, flavoursome alternative to any oils used to drizzle on salads.

We all know the butternut squash and how delicious it can be simply diced and roasted as a side for a Sunday roast, added to stews, curries or salads, it can be cut into a decent chunk used as a veggie alternative to a meaty steak or, perhaps my favourite of all, roasted with spices and blended into a silky smooth soup - then topped with a sprinkle of paprika, a handful of pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.

Then there’s the more unique squashes such as acorn which is a deep green colour, aptly named after it’s similar shape to the small nut that falls off trees at this time of year. Usually quite small in size and coloured inside with a bright yellow flesh, my favourite use for this type of squash is to cut it in half, roasting it with some simple herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and some generous seasoning before stuffing it with either some chilli con carne, a similar-styled stew of lentils or even just with sauteed kale.

All squashes and shapes, colours and sizes of pumpkins that we see in the produce aisle at this time of year can be simply roasted with some herbs. My favourite is drizzling them with a good olive oil, mixing a pinch of paprika, dried rosemary, fresh thyme, a generous crack of black pepper and some sea salt flakes. Use them as a side to any roasted meat, a chunky white fish or toss with lentils, quinoa and enjoy as a salad bowl, finishing with some toasted seeds for extra nutrients and adding a nice texture.

Courgettes can be grated and baked into a number of delicious treats thanks to their natural moisture. A healthy alternative to a traditional cake, a sweet courgette cake is best suited to a loaf tin and drizzled with a light lemon drizzle. A savoury option is to add some cheese in the flour mix and bake into herb-filled muffins.

The recipes are endless with both winter and summer squashes, and it’s certainly the best time of year to get adventurous with creating with these ingredients! 

Happy cooking, baking & carving!

Written by Lauren Loudon

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