Simple Things: Winter Squash and Woolly Bears

The older I get the more I appreciate simple things: blue skies, an apple, a book that need only to be opened to be read, not ever needing  to be re-charged, a sleeping cat. Squash fall into this category of simple things. Bold vegetable sculptures, often scarred after a summer out in a field, they resolutely refuse to be hip or cool, and will never come in pink. Some cooks shy away from squash, being unclear as to how to cook them. But here’s a little tour of the squash in our photo. The big orange thing is a hubbard squash. How do you cook it? First, take a saw and saw it in half around it’s middle. Honestly, it’s not that difficult. Then cut off the stem with a cleaver. Scoop the seeds out–they can be cleaned and roasted with salt in a 400 degree oven. Saw your halves in two so you have four pieces. Also in a 400 degree oven, bake the squash quarters which have been salted and dotted with butter and sprinkled with brown sugar, for about 40 to 50 minutes. Then fall on it like a famished animal who just happens to have a spoon.

The white and green squash is a sweet dumpling squash. I think these are the most delicious squash of all with a delicate flavor and light sweetness. I like to do the smaller squash in the microwave for weekday meals. Somehow hubbards are for Sunday dinner. To cut in half, use a sharp cleaver, as a saw is definitely overkill here. Slice the cleaver back and forth across the squash midsection, then raise the cleaver with the squash attached, and bring it down on the butcher block table with a tremendous “thwaack.”  It will fall into two halves. I follow the same procedure as with the hubbard, scooping out the seeds, seasoning, and cooking. I cover the squash halves with a paper towel and microwave for about nine to ten minutes, but this timing can vary depending on the squash size. The green squash in the foreground is acorn squash, and you cook it like the sweet dumpling. Once you experience how simple it is to cook squash, you will see them as a kind of autumnal fast food. The seeds of any of these squash can be saved for planting next year.

The caterpillar of the Isabella tiger moth.

In the garden the other day, I came across a woolly bear caterpillar. Folklore says that woolly bears can be used to predict winter weather. I dug into woolly bear lore and found that this one is predicting that the winter will start off cold but then will be mostly mild before ending cold again. The woolly bears in Pennsylvania, though, are predicting a severe winter.

4 thoughts on “Simple Things: Winter Squash and Woolly Bears

  1. Thinking of you and Uncle Jim, Aunt Fran, and glad to see another few posts since last I checked! The two of you will be on my mind in the coming days.

    Love, Anne

  2. Fran, I love squash, too! The green and white sweet dumpling squash looks so pretty.

    I have a squash story for you: about 5 years ago, I planted seeds from Seed Savers Exchange for a Guatemala Blue Banana squash. This squash started out meekly, then one day, I looked and the vine was 10 feet. A few days later, 15 feet. Then, it crawled over the fence to my neighbor’s yard and ran out into her lawn. Now, my neighbor is a feisty elderly Polish lady who happened to be in rehab after heart issues at the time. She probably would have liked the vine, but we weren’t sure and the problem was that the best squash was now growing on the vine in the middle of her yard. Hmm . . . do we leave it and pick it quick and clear out the vine before she gets home? Leave the vine and let her have the squash? Well, she was away during the week or two it matured and we picked it . . . and ate it . . . and cleared the vine before she got home. BUT . . . we gave her an equally good one a few weeks later! She was thrilled!

    Anyway, I baked that Blue Banana and, oh . . . HEAVEN! We haven’t been able to grow squash or much else in that spot since, probably because I’m growing a woodland back there and it’s getting shady. However, this year, a squash seed planted itself in my compost pile by the garage and before I even noticed it, it was running into my shrubbery on one side and then the flowers on the other. Fran, you wont believe this, but that vine ended up at about 40 feet! Covered with flowers, but no squash, but it was cool! It’s now a mildewed dying thing.

    When my new kitchen is finally born (it is now an embryonic pile of dust with wires sticking out), I shall bake SQUASH!!

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