Selecting and Preparing Butternut Squash cover

Selecting and Preparing Butternut Squash

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Learn how to clean and prepare the best butternut squashes from your local grocer in this quick article by Cindy Fanning.
Pick Fresh Foods
CC BY 3.0





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Selecting and Preparing Butternut Squash

I was at the grocery having a nice little conversation with the girl who was ringing up my purchases.

When she got to the produce, she kept asking me to identify the vegetables for her.

Then she said, “I hardly ever get anything from there. I don’t know what most of those vegetables are or what to do with them.” Her statement got me thinking…what is she eating?!

We are all products of our environment, families, and cultures, and it is usually the parents that teach the children what to eat, how to select food, and how to prepare food.

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But, if your parents didn’t eat a lot of vegetables you probably didn’t have a lot of exposure to the different types of produce available, right?

Later in the day, I was talking to a friend about this and she said, “I know I should be eating these vegetables, but I too don’t know how to select them or how to cook some of them.”

While cooking may be quite easy for some, for others it is a very daunting task. Equally as challenging can be knowing how to select certain vegetables.

So, what do you do when you want to be eating healthy nutritious foods, but don’t know where to begin? This is where I can help….I will be featuring a series of posts on selecting, cleaning, preparing, and cooking vegetables.

Butternut Squash

Image by Cindy Fanning

Butternut Squash

Considered a “super food” because it is a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other protective phytonutrients.

It’s beautiful orange color is an indicator that it is a great source of beta-carotene.

Our bodies convert Beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is essential for a healthy immune system, skin, and vision.

A deficiency in Vitamin A can cause the eyes to weaken and lead to difficulty seeing in low-light and night blindness.

Butternut squash provides nutrients such as fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, iron, and calcium.

Selecting

When selecting, look for squash that are firm, heavy for their size, and that have hard, tough skin.

I choose a squash that has a long neck and a small bulb.

The neck holds the flesh of the squash, while the bulb contains the seeds. Choosing a squash with this shape means I get more squash more my money versus lots of seeds.

Cleaning & Preparing

This is a very important step! Rinse winter squash under warm running water.

Use a vegetable scrubber or a clean sponge to wash the outside of the squash before cutting.

Before I begin prepping the squash. It is important to make sure your cutting board will not move while peeling and cutting the squash.

I like to place a non-slip pad (similar to what you would use to line a cupboard) or spread out a damp paper towel under a cutting board to prevent it from slipping.

Image by Cindy Fanning

Place the cutting board on top of the pad and press against the board to verify it will not slip. Butternut squash can be tough to cut, so this can help prevent an accident.

Image by Cindy Fanning

To begin preparing your Butternut squash, you will need a peeler and a large knife. I prefer to use a vegetable peeler on these squash, so I do not waste too much of the actual flesh while peeling.

Butternut squash has a unique shape that requires a special approach to cutting.

To cut into cubes, I first slice off the bottom and the top of the squash.

Then stand it upright, using a large sharp knife. Slice down the middle of the squash. Butternut squash is very firm so you need to use pressure to work the knife throughout the squash.

In this picture, I held the base firmly as I did my first slice. Then, I used both hands on the knife, one on the handle and the other toward the tip to work it through the squash.

Be sure to keep your fingers away from the blade to prevent cutting yourself.

Image by Cindy Fanning

Once you have cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds. You can roast the seeds like you would pumpkin seeds or just discard them.

Image by Cindy Fanning

Slice into 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices.

Image by Cindy Fanning

Now make 1-inch cuts across slices for 1-inch cubes. Now you are ready to cook your squash!

Image by Cindy Fanning

For a simply delicious way to enjoy butternut squash try my Roasted Butternut Squash.