Delicata Squash: Much More Than Ornamental
BY GIANA PORPIGLIA My mother, having had a traumatic experience with sweet potatoes as a kid, limited the function of squash in our house to ornamental centerpieces. (Call it an age-old order to “eat everything on your plate” gone terribly wrong.) She’d much rather display glass bowls full of the green, yellow and orange oblong crops on the dinner table every autumn as pure decoration, a safe distance from her plate. But after a while, I began to wonder.
Delicata squash always pop up this time of year alongside pumpkins and other edible gourds, so why couldn’t I cut them open and eat them, too? While walking through the Ithaca Farmer’s Market in Dewitt Park one recent Tuesday morning, passing the familiar fall sight—hard, bumpy surfaces gleaming with yellow- and green-striped, waxy coatings—I decided to take a stand and end this mystery.
As I approached farmer Bill Bey of Unexpected Farms in Watkins Glen, he sat guarded against the cold with a thick sweater and thick moustache to match but immediately stood to ask if I had any questions. I had a lot of questions. Is squash a fruit or vegetable, or what? He’s been harvesting squash, as well as a list of other seasonal crops, since the farm’s beginning in 2001. Technically squash are fruit, he said after a moment, due to the presence of seeds; however, they are generally thought of and used as vegetables. So how do you cook it? He had one simple recipe:
Cut off the ends. Slice the fruit in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then cut the flesh into half-inch-thick rings, brush some olive oil on both sides of the rings and bake at 350°F for about half an hour for something sweet, nutty and melt-in-your-mouth. And this is just a standby base; play around roasting it with garlic and your favorite warm-weather spices like sage and thyme and black pepper, or add it to a pot with stock to stretch it into soup. You can even eat those pretty skins.
Giana Porpiglia is an intern at Edible Finger Lakes and a senior writing major at Ithaca College. She vows to never set a squash on a table again unless it’s been in the oven.