Celebrate winter squash, November’s Harvest of the Month

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Show a picture of a pumpkin to almost any child, and they will be able to identify this round, orange fruit that is ubiquitous in fall. But if you ask a child if they’ve cooked, tasted, or eaten a pumpkin, you may get a puzzled look and a hesitant no. This month at Island Grown Schools, we set out to change this, as we celebrated the amazing varieties of winter squash with Island students through taste tests, cooking projects, and lessons.

At farm stands and the farmer’s market this month, you can find green kabochas, peach-colored butternuts, confetti-colored Sweet Dumplings, or Long Island Cheese pumpkins shaped like a wheel of cheese. Each one has a flesh of a different color, and a texture to be enjoyed in anything from soup to smoothies to pie, to cornbread and beyond.

One of our fall curricular units studies and compares the diet and food traditions of Wampanoag people and the pilgrims using primary sources and information from Plimoth Plantation. We learned that the word “pumpkin” comes from the Wampanoag language, and that it was a food cultivated for many years by the native people before any European settlers arrived. Winter squash was a food important to both cultures, and both had traditional recipes for cooking it. At the Vineyard Montessori School, we tried a traditional Pilgrim recipe for Stewed Pumpkin, and were all surprised that we liked it.

Stewed Pumpkin, recipe from Plimoth Plantation

4 cups of cooked (boiled, steamed, or baked) squash, roughly mashed

3 tablespoons butter

2 to 3 tsp. cider vinegar

1 or 2 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir and heat all the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve hot.