Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Foodie Freak: Winter squash, Act 1 Scene 5



I don’t believe in global warming, and I never have. There! I said it and now you know; judge me how you will. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe there isn’t something really weird going on with our environment.

If you were to read this year’s 2009 Old Farmer's Almanac, it has a great “expose” chronicling the history of climate change and how misleading the current media is being.

For you youngsters, back in the 1970s all of the news agencies were claiming that the world was entering a new ice age, and were asking, is there any way to warm the planet and prevent it? They were essentially warning, “Everyone, pull out your parkas and learn to make igloos. The world is starting to freeze and we have all of the facts to prove it.”

Time and Newsweek heralded the upcoming ice age. One town actually approved a plan to put a dome over the town to protect it from the advancing glacial cold. Oops! Whatever happened with that?

I categorize the promoters of global warming in the same class as magicians; they make it look like they really did saw a woman in half but the truth is, they didn’t. The magician got you to see what he wanted you to see, and tricked you about what he didn’t want you to know. A lot of people have to be in on the trick and keep a lot of secrets, but the girl is fine at the end of the show. And just like the magician, most promoters of global warming are getting paid to be the modern day Chicken Little, so naturally they don’t want you to know the whole story.

There are significant and easily seen hints to the ACTUAL global changes that people are missing every day.

For example, look at the Delicata squash. It is an heirloom variety squash that people have been growing for over 100 years. Throughout its entire history it has presented as green with yellow streaks, but a few decades ago it changed, and the yellow has become a creamy tan color.

This odd change is caused by something in the environment. This we know, because the change occurred to Delicata squash all over the planet, even ones from seeds that were passed down from generation to generation without hybridization or crossbreeding.

Many books about gardening mention this quizzical change of the coloration of the squash but none can explain it. Something changed the Delicata squash, whether it is grown indoors in France or outdoors in America. This proves that the Delicata squash is reacting to something in the air that everyone seems to be ignoring.

Delicata squash is like the canary in the coal mine, trying to get your attention, yet everybody is paying attention to the magician sawing a girl in half (and why is there a magician in the coal mine? I don’t know! Look, just play along with the metaphors!). We don’t know why or how the squash changed, and to my knowledge nobody is looking into the mystery.

The fact is that the theory of global warming is being widely discredited since many parts of the planet have been showing cooling trends for the past century, so proponents have “inconveniently” changed its name from “global warming” to “global climate change.” This helps explain the inconsistencies in their data, meanwhile solid evidence of a planetary mystery sits on our grocery shelves unexamined.

I know that I won’t convert the climate change believers, and that’s OK. I’m more interested in making people aware that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (That’s from Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5). You may not agree with my position, but you can’t argue with The Bard.

Taxonomically, winter squash isn’t significantly different from summer squash except for the fact that its thick peel makes it stay fresh into the winter months. It is believed to have originated around the Andes mountain range, where it is almost assuredly one of the first agricultural crops.

Squashes in general have been used for food for over 10,000 years but were mainly eaten for its seeds since initially the gourds themselves were small, bitter and had very little flesh. They eventually evolved and were hybridized into the varieties that we see today.

The Spanish Conquistadors are credited with having shipped them to Europe, although the first credible record of any kind of squash in the Old World was dated from 1591. Now they are grown on every continent including Antarctica, where they are grown in hydroponic greenhouses.

Although the mature vines are tough and prickly all parts of the squash plant are edible including the flower, which has become something of a fad to use in foodie circles.

The word squash comes from the American Indian Narragansett language “askutasquash,” which means “green thing eaten raw.” Descriptive and accurate, isn’t it?

Winter squash, especially the orange-fleshed varieties, have been found to contain cancer fighting phytonutrients, and studies have shown that it is beneficial to prostate health. Benzo (a)pyrene, a common carcinogen in tobacco smoke, induces vitamin A deficiency, while winter squash contains large amounts of vitamin A and reverses Benzo (a)pyrene’s effects and protects against the onset of emphysema. The beta-cryptoxanthin found in squash has been shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer and even protect non-smokers at risk of cancer from second hand smoke.

I could go on ad nauseum about the health benefits of beta-carotene and how it prevents the buildup of cholesterol in the body, protects against diabetic heart disease, regulates blood sugar, reduces the risk of colon cancer, reduces the severity of asthma attacks and the effects of arthritis. I’m sure that you have probably figured out that winter squash are rich with beta-carotene. They're also rich in potassium, vitamin C, fiber, folate, iron … I could go on and on about the health benefits about winter squash, but I’m sure you are seeing a pattern: you need to eat more winter squash.

To many people the thought of squash brings forth images of half of an acorn squash with the cavity filled in with butter and brown sugar and baked. That is not its only trick! It can be cubed and cooked plain, made into soups, breads, puddings and even drinks. Delicata squash is the perfect size for stuffing with any mixture you can think of, from ratatouille to corned beef hash, and still be just a single serving.

I have a pile of winter squash in my kitchen right now, all waiting for their time to come, but at least they won’t have to see the world’s climate change, whether it’s warming or cooling.

According to my Old Farmer's Almanac this winter will be one degree cooler than normal and we will be getting less rain than average.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

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