It’s midwinter and I’m anxious to be outside in the garden. As a reminder of what is to come, I prepared a hearty butternut squash soup from last year’s harvest.
Waltham Butternut Squash is an easy winter gourd to start from seed. It rapidly grows from seed to vine, covering a fence or trellis in one months time as you can see from the photos below. I start my seeds indoors to give them an early start. By early June they are safe to transplant into the garden. Last year I grew these gourds along the garden fence. Just look how fast they grow!
Waltham Butternut Squash not only covers a lot of ground, it is also a prolific producer, needing very little care. Just mulch it deeply with straw and hand-pick the insect pests, such as the Mexican bean beetle, and the squash beetle before they become a problem. Don’t apply pesticides, as many of the insects in your garden are actually beneficial, and help to keep the populations of pests down. Rotating your crops from year to year and using companion plants are additional measures taken to organically beat pests.
Once the fruits are produced in July, they rapidly mature and are ready to be picked in late August-September. They store extremely well untouched, however; this fall I decided to prepare all my squash ahead of time and store in the freezer so that I could whip up some quick and easy, delicious dishes, like coconut curry butternut squash soup, in a pinch. This soup is nutritious and tasty, and it chases aways the winter doldrums.
Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup (makes about 6 servings)
4 cups puréed butternut squash (or substitute with acorn squash, pumpkin, etc.)
1 large onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, or more, to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
If you haven’t already prepared your squash, the following gives instructions on how to do just that. Otherwise, skip to the next paragraph. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Save for another use or discard. Spread about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on the bottom of a roasting tray and place the squash halves cut side-down on the tray. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh feels soft when poked and it has shrunken away from the skins a bit. Flip over and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out all the flesh and reserve in a bowl.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pot with another tablespoon or so of vegetable oil and sweat the onions over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry powder, cayenne, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, another 4-5 minutes. Add the puréed squash (or roasted if you just prepared it) and coconut milk. Stir to combine thoroughly and bring just to a boil. Using a hand blender, purée the soup to a smooth consistency (this can also be done by transferring the soup in batches to a food processor or blender). Taste for seasoning. Add vegetable stock or more coconut milk if it’s too thick to your liking.
Mashed squash is the bulk of this bowl of soup, so you can rest assured after eating one that you’ll have had your share of beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. The coconut milk here adds saturated nut fats instead of cholesterol rich fats associated with cream and butter. Furthermore, coconut contains the antiviral lauric acid, found naturally in mother’s milk. Lauric acid is converted to monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the body to destroy lipid-coated viruses such as influenza.
To read more about coconut oil see http://health.msn.com/health-topics/cholesterol/coconut-oil.
For more on identifying beneficial pests, please check out the following resources: