Meet The Cushaw Squash

Early fall is one of my favorite times of the year, the weather is perfect, the leaves are changing, and squash is bountiful!

The beautiful and alluring, Cushaw Squash is a huge valued crop, because it is inexpensive and stores for about four months. They average about 10-20 pounds, grow to 12-18 inches in length, and can be 10 inches in width at the bulb, in total, more substantial than a newborn child! The flesh is light yellow, and the flavor is mildly sweet. It’s crookneck in shape, with a bent top, and it can be green, white, orange, or striped. You know the one. It caught your eye at the market.

Cushaw, an American heirloom not usually found outside North America though, like me, the Cushaw is the only slightly ordinary member of its vast family. This hot, climate-loving squash species cultivated in warmer parts of the world like Mexico, but some say they originated in the West Indies. There are arguments that Native Americans initially cultivated varieties as a staple. In some U.S regions,it is often referred to as a Cushaw Pumpkin, Appalachia, or a Tennessee Sweet Potato.

Cushaw behaves like a pumpkin, when cooked. High in vitamins A and C, which make it excellent for our immune systems. You can enjoy this squash raw, so pop some on the holiday veggie platter this year.

Regardless of the type, they are all uniform in flavor, making excellent pies, muffins, cakes, quick breads as well as soups or hearty main dishes. Wash whole, cut into large chunks and remove the skin after cooking; it’s really so much more manageable.

Recipe Ideas:

I love to roast chunks on a generously oiled stainless steel sheet pan with a sprinkle of salt. Preheat the oven to 425′ F Degrees for a deep caramelization- flipping a few times through this cooking process and season with salt on every turn. After they caramelize, reduce oven to 325′ F Degrees and continue to roast until tender. I also blast them with fresh sage, thyme, and a sprinkle of brown sugar the last ten minutes of cooking unless I am using them for baking. You can also mash with butter, pumpkin spices, cream, or non-dairy nut milk for a whipped side dish.

I love to roll this delicate delicious seasoned flesh in yeasted bread or Phyllo dough and bake again to spin-off a delicious cheese pie ( from Moldovan,) now a part of Romania.

This squash also freezes well, and the fresh cut cubes won’t stick together, so no need for individual freezing of chunks before freezer packing.

Choose squash that has deep-colored rinds, free of blemishes, or moldy spots.Cushaws are highly pest resistant-so you can rest easy this crop rarely gets sprayed with pesticides.

Varieties

Green-Striped Cushaw:

This green and white squash of the South is also known as the Tennessee sweet potato squash and valued in hotter areas as an all-around squash for desserts or vegetable dishes. Native Americans – both South and north of the border – have grown this large, squash-bug and vine-borer-resistant variety since prehistoric times – possibly as far back as 7000 BC. Some describe it as having a slightly sweet, mild smoky taste frequently preferred as a substitute for pumpkin in pumpkin pies.

White Cushaw:

The white Cushaw is another of the rarer varieties of cushaw squash. This plant produces enormous, mildly sweet, and nutty fruits with orange flesh that is excellent cooked or raw. It also provides mounds of large seeds that make great, healthy snacks when roasted. Like most cushaws, this variety is pest-resistant and keeps very well. It is easy to grow, holds up well in the heat, and produces prolifically. It is sometimes called the “Jonathan Pumpkin.”

Seminole Pumpkin:

“Seminole Pumpkin” is another cushaw squash – despite the name. The Seminole tribe, of what is now Florida, grew this smaller-sized squash as a staple part of their diet. It grows well in moist, humid environments where other squashes do not fare so well. This firm-fleshed, sweet variety is also resistant to powdery mildew, which is a significant problem for many squashes.

Golden Cushaw:

Beautiful golden-orange colored squash with deep orange flesh. Do not confuse it with the C. mixta variety called gold-striped Cushaw, a variety visually identical to the green-striped Cushaw except for the beautiful golden stripes. The golden Cushaw has sweet flesh reminiscent of sweet potatoes and is very high in many nutrients! Yes, please!

10 Tried and True Suggestions to Make Cooking with Kids Fun…. (For Everyone!)

The kitchen is a terrific place to bond with children. Whether you’re planning to rustle up breakfast, or decorating cookies, you can create memories that will last a lifetime. Here are 10 super suggestions for making cooking with the kids fun for everyone!

Safety First– Kids need to understand the importance of safety. Teach young children to stay away from the hot stove, sharp knives, and other kitchen dangers. Every child loves to pour the milk and add the flour, so take a couple extra seconds to turn off the mixer and let them! Even better, do the mixing by hand when you can! That leads right into….

Cootie Protection– Good hygiene is an essential kitchen lesson to teach your kids. Make sure they understand the importance of washing their hands often, sneezing away from food, and to use clean dish cloths and cutting surfaces to avoid cross contamination. If you do it they will too!

The Simpler the Better– Kids love to dig in with both hands. Choose recipes that are easy, hand formed cookies are a fun start that keeps them involved.

Dont Watch the Clock– If the recipe says it takes 20 minutes to prepare count on 40 with kids in the kitchen. Plan accordingly and keep it fun. You and your child will have a much more enjoyable experience if you are not in a hurry, and the extra time is well spent when you consider those priceless memories and life skills!

Relax and have fun– There WILL BE funny shaped cakes, maybe a few egg shells in the batter. Take it all to heart and give praise often, even if it’s not perfect. This is a great time to share your own memories or even a baking secret. Shhhhhh!

Its Not Just About Cooking – The kitchen makes a fantastic classroom for kids. Learning to read and follow written directions is a very important lesson. Take advantage of showing them how fractions work in a recipe, how many minutes are in an hour when baking a cake, or the science in making a souffle rise, the educational opportunities are endless.

How to Answer Why? We all know thats a childs favorite question. Even if they don’t ask it you can provide all kinds of useful information. Explain why you need yeast in the bread, how baking soda works in cakes and cookies, and the differences between similar items like granulated sugar and confectioners sugar. Give them an opportunity to see, touch, and smell all the ingredients you are using in the recipe.

Food Safety – It’s important to teach kids how to care for food. Make kids aware of the bacteria that can live in food if not treated properly. Remind them that hot food should be kept hot (over 140 F) and cold food cold (under 40 F).

It’s OK to Use a Mix- The attention span of small children can be short to say the least. Using a mix can take less time, leave less room for error, and create less of a mess. Yes, this is one of those times where less can be more! Keep mixes handy for when time is of the essence. So what if its not made from scratch it was still time well spent!

Clean Up – Teach children that cleaning up is all part of the process. Do it as you go to keep a safe and sanitary cooking area. Remind them that no good chef leaves the kitchen until its clean.