The pumpkin frenzy of the last few weeks has reminded me about the great variety of squashes and pumpkins we have available in Ireland. At this time of year, these colourful vegetables are ideal for winter soups, stews and warm salads. The added benefit is that they’re great for health. So how can they improve your health this winter?
Winter squash, members of the Cucurbitaceae family and relatives of both the melon and the cucumber, come in many different varieties. While each type varies in shape, colour, size and flavour, they all share some common characteristics. The types of winter squashe we see most in Ireland are spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins.
In addition to their lovely sweet flavour, winter squashes are packed with goodness. Firstly they are filled of antioxidants, being the primary source of many carotenoids (one family of antioxidants) which help to protect the body. In addition, they are also a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and potassium. Along with its great fibre content, squashes are also the highest vegetable source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 oils!
Also, if you are feeling industrious, the seeds from squash make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds. If you scoop the pulp and seeds from inside the squash and separate out the seeds, you can place them in a single layer on a baking tray and lightly roast them in the oven at 80 oc for 15-20 minutes.
- 1 yellow onion, diced finely
- 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 cinnamon stick (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
- 1 butternut squash, diced into inch cubes
- 2 potatoes, diced
- 1 tin chickpeas, drained
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Pinch saffron threads (optional)
- Sea salt and pepper
- Place some water in the bottom of a saucepan and add the onion. Cover and sauté for 5 mins (add a little more water if necessary)
- Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
- Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, give it a good stir and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add a cup of boiling water, the chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.
- A perfect winter warmer!