Meet the Butternut, a winter squash similar in flavor and texture to the pumpkin, but without the thick skin. Butternuts are harvested late in the season, usually October. However, as with much of the produce this year, they appear to be ripening earlier. You have probably seen a few coming into Market already.
Diligent research has given me little history on this tasty squash. One source (the Stow Independent) credits Charles Leggett with its development in the mid-1940s. It most certainly has its roots in the Americas, although it is relatively new to the table, arriving (according to some sources) in the 19th century.
It is considered a pumpkin in Australia and New Zealand, where the two are used interchangeably.
With all due respect to its summer cousins, winter squashes are a powerhouse of nutrients, far eclipsing that of the zucchini or summer squash.
The butternut is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, providing a whopping 457 percent and 51 percent RDA respectively, in one cup, cubed. Vitamin A has been identified as a deterrent against breast cancer as well as age related macular degeneration. It is heart healthy, protecting against heart disease. Low in fat, yet high in dietary fiber, the butternut is an excellent choice for your diet. It provides significant amounts of potassium and vitamin B6 as well, important to bone health and the function of the nervous and immune system respectively.
Butternut is a versatile squash, lending itself well to soups, casseroles and dessert dishes. It can be baked or microwaved whole for an easy fix. Remove the peel and seeds while still warm, then puree for a buttery flavored soup or a base for pumpkin pie.
Holiday “Pumpkin” Pie
1 ½ c. cooked and pureed butternut squash
½ c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
* 1 ¼ c. Holiday Nog
1 tsp. orange liquor or brandy
1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell
Whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 400◦ F. In large bowl, combine squash, sugar, salt and spices. Blend in eggs, nog and liquor. Pour into pastry shell. Bake 50 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool. Refrigerate. Serve plain or with whipped cream.
*Substitute Holiday Nog with milk if desired—add ¼ c. sugar
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