As we wrap up September, we continue to have Hunger Action Month orange on our mind – and in our food! We’re not only talking about carrots and pumpkins, either. Think citrus, persimmons, yams, and butternut squash (more on that later).
But first, what exactly makes orange fruits and vegetables like these so special? To put it simply, most naturally orange foods pack a powerful punch of vitamins and antioxidants that result in their vibrant color. According to Food Network’s popular Healthy Eats program(1), the bright orange we see in food like sweet potatoes is due to an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which is part of the carotenoid family. Beta-carotene does a lot of important things for our bodies, like helping us have healthy skin, hair, and eyesight. Additionally, beta-carotene can be turned into vitamin A – one of the essential building blocks for a healthy immune system and normal growth and development. In fact, orange foods are the most widely available source of vitamin A that is available for us to consume.(2)
Besides beta-carotene and vitamin A, orange foods contain vitamin C, potassium, and even fiber. Orange foods are tasty, good for you, and can add a nice pop of color to your favorite dishes! Looking for a way to use a popular, seasonal orange-colored vegetable?
Butternut squash is a winter squash, but don’t let the name mislead you; this sweet and nutty orange delight is delicious all year round and in all kinds of ways.
Before gearing up to go orange with butternut squash in the kitchen, it’s important to know when and how to choose a good one. The prime time for shopping is from early fall through winter, when prices are better than any other time year round. Our own Chef Jennifer Lamplough suggests looking for a squash that feels heavy for its size, with a fat neck and smaller bulb (the smaller the bulb, the fewer the seeds you’ll have to scoop out later). The skin should be hard without bruises or mold, but don’t worry if there’s a dark spot on the side of the squash that’s been facing down.
Once you bring your squash home, if you’re not quite ready to use it, do NOT stick it in the fridge! If kept dry and out of the sunlight (like on a pantry shelf, for example), your squash should keep for about a month. Once peeled or cooked, butternut squash should be stored in an airtight container and can be refrigerated for up to six days. Par-cooked (blanched) or fully cooked squash can also be frozen in an airtight freezer bag or container for up to six months. Stock up now to enjoy year round!
If you’re not familiar with cooking with butternut squash, below is a great how-to video from Chef Jen that shows how to get started with the cutting and cooking. When you feel like your knife skills are up to par, try one of Chef Jen’s favorite recipes for Butternut Squash and Bean Stew.
Orange you excited to get started?
(1) Amidor, Toby. “Eating By Color: Orange.” Food Network, Food Network, 19 Oct. 2010.
(2) “Beta-Carotene.” Carotenoids – Nutrients, Nutri-Facts: Understanding Vitamins & More.