Winter Squash

Latin names to common winter squash varieties:
Cucurbita maxima (includes Kabocha, Hubbard, and Turban)
Cucurbita mixta (includes Butternut)
Cucurbita pepo (includes Acorn and Spaghetti)
Other Name: pumpkin

What is Winter Squash?
Winter squash are part of the Cucurbitaceae family and are relatives of both the melon and the cucumber. In other countries, all varieties of winter squash are sometimes referred to as pumpkins; in America, of course, “pumpkin” refers only to the large, orange famous jack-o-lantern gourd. There are many varieties of winter squash that come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. All winter squash have a sweet flavor, but their skin can be smooth, segmented, or warty, and they can range in color from blue to green, yellow, and tan. Unlike summer squash, winter squash is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the skin has hardened into a tough rind. Most winter squash have a storage life of up to six months.

Native Americans and Mexicans have been growing and using winter squash for centuries. In fact, to Native Americans, winter squash was such an essential part of the diet that they often buried it along with the dead to give them nourishment on their final journey. The squash we know today originated from an early squash variety that is nearly 10,000 years old; this squash was used only for its seeds, as the flesh was too bitter for eating. Over time, squash cultivation in the Americas produced a more palatable, fleshy squash. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World.

What are the health benefits of Winter Squash?
Considered cooling in nature, squash is used by traditional Chinese medicine to detoxify, quench thirst, relieve irritability, alleviate skin lesions, remedy urination difficulty, and treat edema.

Winter squash is packed with vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). It is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).

Beta-carotene, the most abundant nutrient in winter squash, has been found to have very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beta-carotene may help to prevent hardening of the arteries, protect against diabetic heart disease, reduce the risk of colon cancer, and reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Where can I find Winter Squash?
Winter Squash can be found in grocery stores and outdoor markets in the autumn and winter season.

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This entry was posted in Foods, Natural Health Dictionary.