September 7 is National Acorn Squash Day. [Really!] Acorn squash, also sometimes called pepper squash, is dark green on the outside, and shaped like a giant acorn [duh], with sweet, yellow-orange flesh on the inside. Indigenous to North and Central America, acorn squash was introduced to early European settlers by Native Americans.
Little-known fact: the first European settlers thought squash was some odd kind of melon, since they had never seen anything like it before. That would have been the strangest fruit salad of all time.
Although considered a winter squash, the acorn squash belongs to the same species as all summer squashes (including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash).
What do you do with an acorn squash?
Make a sweet side dish. Many recipes for acorn squash call for simply baking them. Slice the squash in half [as in the picture above], scoop out the seeds, dot with butter and season with something sweet [like maple sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or ginger]. If baking, put the squash in a baking dish with 1/4″ water in the bottom, and cook the at 400F for about an hour. Toss in some chopped nuts and diced dried fruit if desired. Squash are also easily microwaved, sauteed or steamed.
Make a savory main dish. Acorn squash transforms from a side to a main dish when stuffed with rice, meat or vegetable mixtures, and seasoned with savory spices. We like to take plain baked squash and fill the cavity with a North African-esque mix of couscous, pine nuts, cumin, garlic, and a drizzle of Harissa Olive Oil.
Get toasted. You can also eat the seeds of the squash. They are delicious toasted on a baking sheet. We recommend a sprinkling the raw seeds with grated Parmesan cheese, or with sea salt, or with one of our spice blends — Cajun Blackening Blend is a zippy favorite — and baking on moderately low heat [275 – 350F] to the desired level of crispiness [15 – 30 min].
Plus, it’s good for you, too. Acorn squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, although it’s not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes. Acorn squash starts appearing in Midwestern farmers’ markets in July and August, and is readily available through the end of autumn. Choose a firm, dark-green squash with a dull [not shiny] rind – that means it’s fully ripe. Acorn squash stores well, too, keeping several months in a cool dry location such as a pantry or root cellar.
Image: via tombothetominator