Squash Wars: Sweet Dumpling

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Great, if you love pablum and hate flavour. Agonizingly bland. I don’t know why I gave Sweet Dumpling another try. I have never liked it and don’t understand why anyone would.

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Squash Wars: Sunshine

“Sunshine … seems to make superb squash even when poorly grown.”

  • Carol Deppe, The Resilient Gardener

I found another squash to fall in love with! Not as sweet as Honeynut, or with quite as dry and floury or powdery a texture as Blue Banana, Sunshine is still an amazing find, and top-ranking in my opinion. Sunshine (F1 – it’s a hybrid) has thick, soft and smooth flesh, giant, plump, flavourful seeds, and barely any watery guts inside, making the seeds easy to clean. The meat of the squash is sweet but complex tasting and seems to just melt in your mouth. Even cold it is delicious and full of flavour. I have been baking it and eating it plain with a side of homemade fermented cashew cheese, or baked it in little pieces and put it in miso soup. The problem with the latter is that it’s so tempting, baked into little bite-sized chunks that I end up eating a lot of them before they make it to the soup. Oh well.

Sunshine is a type of kuri squash, but the pretty much identical-looking Orange Kuri I had a while ago didn’t even bear a resemblance to Sunshine, flavour-wise. So, if you’re looking for this squash, you might have to ask the grower its variety, and not depend on what it looks like. I was only lucky enough to get it because I asked the Blue Banana grower at the farmers’ market what she recommended, and she mentioned the Sunshine. I had assumed they were Orange Kuris, which are more common. This squash has won a bunch of flavour awards, and Carol Deppe, weird squash aficionado (she is weird, I mean, not the squash) swears by Sunshine as a delicious prime winter squash in short or imperfect growing seasons. She is all about growing squash a certain way, and she may well be right. Anyway, I can’t praise this squash enough.

5-Squash Dinner

IMG_2002I wrote already about kabocha, chayote, bitter melon, and honeynut, and have mentioned butternut squash a few times as well. Well, without trying I ended up making a meal of all of them together one night. The funny thing is that it really didn’t feel like I was eating a lot of one thing at all.

I made soup with chayote and butternut cut into noodle-like ribbons, then the bitter melon dish I mentioned in that post in half a kabocha. And the honeynut was dessert (not pictured- just a honeynut cut in half and baked).

Sorry about the bad food photography (I promise it won’t happen often) but I thought this was hilarious when I realized it, and had to prove that it actually happened.

Squash Wars: Chayote

IMG_2018Like bitter melon, I have been curious about chayote for a while and wanting to give it a try. It’s also a gourd, not actually a squash, but close enough! I ate some raw and some sliced into thin ribbons and just barely cooked in soup. I was expecting it to be fairly bland, comparably to a lot of summer squash, but to my surprise it’s somewhat sweet – almost as sweet as a decent carrot or maybe jicama or a particularly good kohlrabi. And yeah, it was nicely crispy too. I am into it!

Squash Wars: Butterkin

IMG_1994 Butterkin: the squat, round version of the butternut squash. I have had a couple of them this year – one from the market and one from the food co-op. Both were good, the flavour indistinguishable from a butternut – slightly syrupy, warm and pleasant. The texture is a bit thinner and more watery than a good butternut, but this seems to fix itself after a day in the fridge since the leftovers are thick and smooth. These seem to be popping up everywhere around here and are good, though not exquisite.

Squash Wars (sort of): Bitter Melon?

OK, bitter melon is a gourd, which is related to a squash, so close enough.

I have been curious about bitter melon for a long time, and finally gathered the courage to try making some. I got some advice from a connoisseur to  go for the smooth rather than spiky bitter melon first, baby steps and all, since this kind isn’t as bitter. It was bitter enough, though, so I am glad I went this way. I based  my meal on this Indian recipe for sweet and sour bitter gourd and expected to make something OK but not great. I just made enough for a single portion and served it with half of a small kabocha squash. My first bite made me think I would have a hard time finishing the whole meal – it was pretty bitter. But then I took another bite and got really into it. The sweet, thick kabocha contrasted with the bitterness of the gourd perfectly, and the spices from the recipe above really made it stand out. It was so good I made it again the next night.

Squash Wars: Kabocha

IMG_2014I can’t believe I haven’t written about kabocha squash yet but apparently not. Weird, since I have eaten almost as many of these as the honeynuts this fall/winter. They are basically my go-to squash since they range from very good to excellent in flavour and texture, and are usually fairly available. Plus you can eat the skin, conveniently.

So, yeah, kabocha – thick, dense flesh bordering on the coveted floury/flaky texture, and a sweet but never cloying flavour pretty close to sweet potato. Occasionally a bit bland but usually not. I am a fan, and have been getting great ones from the farmer’s market in Toronto. Vancouver had OK kabochas as well.

Kabochas are great just cut in half and baked, with or without a tahini dressing. They don’t need much. Also good cut up in chunks (peel on is fine) in vegetable soup, or inside sushi.