Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Meet Whole Foods: Sunshine Squash!

With springtime here, we are trying to use up the last of our winter squash from last year's garden before they turn soft. So without further ado, I am introducing you today to my very most favorite winter squash in the whole world! 
Meet: Sunshine Squash!

Isn't it named well? Bright and cheerful - it just looks happy. There's nothing like a little sunshine squash to brighten up a gloomy day or any day for that matter! 

What is a Sunshine Squash?
Sunshine Squash is a type of winter squash of the Kobacha variety. It looks similar to a small, squatty pumpkin - with a bright orange hard outer shell and a bright orange flesh. Some have a small green base near the flower. They make beautiful decorations for fall, but even more important, they are wonderful to eat and store! Sunshine Squash has a wonderful smooth texture, unlike any squash I have tasted! None of the stringiness that many people don't like about squash. Sunshine Squash has a very thick skin, making it ideal for winter storage.

How do I use it?
Sunshine Squash can be used in recipes that call for other winter squash. You can cook it in the microwave, roast it in the oven, or steam it in the pressure cooker or on the stove. Like other winter squash, the inner flesh is what is consumed. Once cooked, you can puree it and use it as a soup base or in pumpkin pie filling, or use it in other baked goods. It also makes an excellent baby food as it has a sweet flavor and nice smooth texture. My favorite way to eat sunshine squash is just cooked and served plain. It doesn't need butter, it doesn't need salt. It doesn't need nothing! Perfect just as it is. Even if you don't like squash, you really ought to try these. They are easy to learn to like!

Where can I buy them?
You may be able to find them at farmer's markets or specialty stores, but I've never seen them in regular grocery stores. They are a fairly new type of squash so until they become more widely known, the best way to try them is to grow them yourself!

How can I grow them?
Sunshine Squash are easy to grow as long as they have lots of sunlight and warm weather. They are similar to growing a pumpkin, but they can be planted closer together and have higher yields. You can find Sunshine Squash seeds at stokes, jung seed or park seed. Once harvested, Sunshine squash should be cured for about four weeks at room temperature. Curing the squash hardens the outer skin, reduces high water content, and improves the eating quality and storage longevity of the squash. We usually just set them around the house as fall decorations after we harvest them, in order to let them cure. Then they store very well up to six months in a dry, dark place (best at about a 60 degree temp).

How healthy are they?
Winter squash, such as Sunshine are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are important for cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment. They also have been shown to be helpful in regulating blood sugar. They are high in vitamins and especially excellent sources of Vitamin A and C.

Got a Recipe?
This week I'll be sharing some of my favorite recipes using Sunshine or other Winter Squash. If you have a favorite recipe, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail!



Jason said...

I love this squash variety. We have one growing in the greenhouse and after 13 weeks its over 12 foot tall!

Heather {Healthy Family Cookin} said...

Wow that's amazing! 12 foot in 13 weeks!

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