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Where Did Delicata Squash Originate?
Squash has been around for over 8,000 years and is indiginous to Central and North America. They were a staple in the diets of Native Americans who introduced the fruits to European settlers.
Delicata seeds were first sown in the late nineteenth century and quickly became one of the most popular squashes through the 1920s. Its high susceptibility to disease and its shorter shelf life caused the delicata to fall out of favor right around the Great Depression when scarce resources were spent on food that lasted longer. In the 1990s, researchers at Cornell University developed a disease-resistant variety and after its long absence, delicata squash has regained its foothold as a favorite squash to prepare and eat.
4 Tips For Selecting the Best Delicata Squash
Delicata can be found in many grocery stores or your local farmers market. If you have a garden that gets full sun, delicata is also easy to grow. Its thin skin gives it a shorter shelf life than other winter squashes so use it soon after buying or picking, or store in a dark, cool place to make it last longer if needed.
Delicata is naturally gluten free, and is a great source of beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium. There are a few characteristics to look for when searching for the perfect delicata squash.
- Color. The first thing to observe is a delicata’s color. You want a deep, rich yellow or orange skin with thin green stripes. Like many fruits, if it is mostly green it isn’t ripe yet.
- Firmness. You want a heavy, smooth, firm squash. Most delicatas will weigh about one to two pounds. Soft spots indicate the squash is not ready, or not good. Use a fingernail to try to dent the skin. If it doesn’t push in then the squash is ready.
- Shape. Like many squash, delicata can grow in unusual and asymmetrical shapes, thin on one end and bulbous on the other. Choose one that is relatively uniform that will be easier to cut through.
- Vines. If harvesting straight from the plant, look for that rich yellow skin and firm fruit, but another sign that the squash is ready is the vine. If it is still a little green let it grow a little more. When the vine is brown and withered the squash is ready to be picked.
Can You Eat Raw Delicata Squash?
Though the name “squash” comes from “askutasquash,” a Narragansett Native American word that means “uncooked,” delicata is most often cooked before it is served. It can be sautéed, boiled, steamed, or even prepared in a slow cooker, but delicata is most often roasted. The soft skin is easy to slice and can be eaten, unlike other varieties of winter squash with hard exteriors, like pumpkins and butternut.
How to Roast Delicata Squash
Use this six-step guide to roast delicata squash.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Trim the ends of the squash off. Then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and stringy flesh from the center.
- Lay each half flesh-side down and cut into quarter-inch slices. The slices will look like half moons. You can also roast each half without slicing and cut up as needed after cooking.
- Put slices in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, sea salt or kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Lay the slices in a single layer in a glass baking dish or a baking sheet with parchment paper and put in the oven.
- Cook until the delicata slices are golden brown and crispy.
5 Easy Roast Delicata Squash Recipes
From a warm side dish to a cool salad, delicata squash is a healthy addition to any of your favorite recipes. It is a great substitute for meals that call for butternut or acorn squash. Start by roasting the squash, then try out one of these four easy delicata squash recipes.
- Roasted delicata squash with maple syrup. Delicata is so rich and creamy, it can be eaten on its own. Cut the roasted squash into thick slices. Add a drizzle of maple syrup on top and enjoy.
- Roasted delicata squash soup. While butternut squash is most often used for this warm, wintery dish, replace it with delicata. Its sweet flavor lends itself to this savory soup. Heat butter in a pan and sauté a white or yellow onion with a sprinkle of salt, and herbs like thyme and rosemary. When onions are translucent, add roasted squash, with or without the skin, chicken broth, and cream. Blend and serve warm.
- Vegan delicata bowl. Delicata pairs well with so many foods, and can sweeten up any dish. Cut roasted delicata into bite-sized pieces. Cook up quinoa or couscous. Mix in cranberries, sautéed kale or chard (or another favorite leafy green,) and top with the warm squash.
- Tacos. The tender but dense flesh of delicata squash makes it a great ingredient to replace meat. Try it in tacos with shredded cabbage to add a little crunch to the soft squash. Lay out small corn tortillas (heated if desired.) In each one put: roasted delicata bites, pinto or black beans, shredded cabbage, cheese, sour cream, and tomatillo salsa.
- Roasted delicata seeds. Instead of tossing those seeds you scooped out of the squash, roast them for a healthy snack. Wash the seeds and lay them on a baking sheet to dry completely. Toss them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and put them in an oven heated to 325 F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
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