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Butternut Squash »« Brussels sprouts

Buttercup Squash

Cucurbita maxima


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

The buttercup squash is round and flat, far more in keeping with the traditional ‘pumpkin’ shape than its tall, curvy cousin, the butternut. Dark green on the outside, when cut open it reveals vivid orange flesh.

Choose a buttercup that that feels heavy, indicating that it has a high moisture content and is therefore fresher, and sounds hollow when tapped. Make sure the skin is deeply coloured and free from blemishes or soft spots. It will keep for several months if stored in a cool dry place, but will rot if kept in the fridge for any length of time.

As well as being rich in beta-carotene, which gives it its golden colour and coverts to vitamin A in the body, the buttercup is packed with other nutrients such as vitamins B and C, magnesium, protein and fibre.

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History

Squash originates from the area of Central America around Mexico. As far back as 3000BC, they were consumed as ‘the apple of God’. Thought to increase fertility, they were often planted outside homes. Early forms of squash contained little flesh, which was bitter and unpalatable anyway, so they were mostly cultivated for their seeds.

Squash didn’t arrive in Europe until the 16th century, when explorer Christopher Columbus brought them back from the New World, and even then it was three hundred years before they were commonly found at mealtimes.

Pumpkins, squash, and other gourds have found their way around the world. In New Zealand, remains of gourds have been found in pre-European Maori sites, and even today, pumpkin and squash are popular additions to hangi.

Uses

Buttercup is interchangeable in most recipes that call for pumpkin, though the flesh can tend to be a bit dry, so to bring out its sweet nuttiness and add moisture, boiling and steaming are the most popular ways of cooking it.

The sweetness means that it goes well with salty feta, so try combining the two in a pie with filo pastry, or in a salad. Buttercup is also a great addition to vegetable curries.

Facts

As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the squash is a close relative of the courgette, the melon, and the cucumber.

Squash develops more beta-carotene when stored after picking.



Butternut Squash »« Brussels sprouts

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