Sunday, November 16, 2008

Preserving Your Harvest #2: What the heck do I do with all this Fairy Squash??

Perhaps the subtitle for this post should be "What the heck is a fairy squash, anyway?"  Well, I discovered Fairy Squash a couple of years ago, perusing one of my favorite seed catalogs from the Territorial Seed Company.  Here's their description:  "Fairy's got it all.  It's early, prolific, disease resistant, storable, and delicious.  The rambling plants set fruit early and continue to bloom over the long season, providing ample blossoms for stuffing.  Manageably proportioned, oval fruit weighing 2-2 1/2 pounds have thick, honeyed flesh and smooth, green and goldenstreaked skin.  Use for soups, pies, baked goods, or whole, baked and stuffed as a show-stopping dinner presentation."  I was hooked!  (Not to mention the fact that the name conjured up images of little winged beings cavorting through the garden patch--what fun!)  And I must say, prolific is an understatement!  Last year I planted two butternut squash plants and one fairy squash plant on my squash trellis, and got 3 times more fairy squash from the one plant than I got butternuts from the other two!  And whereas the butternut squash plants were attacked by the ever-present squash bugs, the fairy squash didn't seem to be bothered.  So this year I planted just the fairy squash, and wound up with quite the harvest!

Cucurbita moschata is the Latin name for several varieties of winter sqsuashes that include the Fairy Squash, which is a hybrid variety.  The hybrid designation means that if you plant the seeds from your Fairy Squash, what you'll get the next year is anyone's guess--it's not an heirloom for that reason.  So, roast and eat the seeds--they're tasty nonetheless!  Winter squashes include the more familiar pumpkins, butternut, acorn and other varieties that store well throughout the winter, and hence the name "winter squash".  (Summer squashes are those tender varieties like zucchini and yellow squash that have to be eaten right away.)  You can put your fairy squash in a cool, dark place, and they'll keep for several months.  Just make sure they are clean and not bruised in any way.  (Bruised squash won't keep well, but you can certainly eat them right away.)

So, what do we do with all these lovely Fairy Squash we've grown?  Roast them!  Roasting makes the wonderful, sweet, silky flavor of winter squash really shine.  Wash the outside of the squash well to make sure they're clean.  Put the squash on a sturdy cutting board, and with a 
heavy-duty knife cut off the stem end, and then cut the squash down through the middle.  Scoop out the seeds just like you do with your Halloween pumpkin, and then place the squash halves cut-side down on a baking tray and roast in a 400 °F oven for about 30 minutes or so, until they are soft.  At this point you can turn them right side up, add butter, and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, or a sprinkle of brown sugar, and roast for a few more minutes, and eat.  Or, you can puree the roasted squash to use in any recipe that you'd use canned pumpkin.  Let the squash halves cool and scoop the flesh into a food processor (discard the skin), and puree.  You can use the puree to make pumpkin butter:  there's a really nice recipe for making pumpkin butter here. Or, use the puree to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin breads, or muffins, according to your favorite recipes.  I think you'll find that your homemade puree tastes better by leaps and bounds than the canned stuff.  And you can freeze the puree in zip lock bags:  just measure out however much you'd use in your favorite recipe and you have your very own home-grown, homemade convenience food!  And you can share all of these wonderful treats with your diminutive winged friends--they really don't eat much!

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