This year before the last harvest was in, I was taken by surprise by a group of delicata squash lounging about on the edge of my small backyard garden. The trail of green tendrils last spring meandered away from seedlings I planted in early summer, followed by the bugle shaped bright-eyed yellow flowers hiding under exuberant leaves, giving way to the lilliputian squash that did what they knew how to do. In the long warm days of deep summer, they grew to 8 or 9 inches long and by the end of fall were now ready to be picked.
I did not grow up with this hearty squash beauty, rather ate the also-delicious acorn and butternut squash with the occasional pumpkin thrown in for variety.
But the delicata squash with is narrow body and playful green stripes, is my new favorite. When the sun shines on its taut skin, it seems to shout out I’M GOOD FOR YOU! PICK ME! It’s perfect for making one of my all-time favorite soups, squash soup or stuffed squash. In my mind, delicata offers a better volume balance between the shell and whatever stuffing contents you fill it with.
That said, what I’d like to focus on here are the squash seeds. They’re flavorful and nutritious, full of all kinds of nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, protein, beta carotene and Vitamin C. Squash in general has been studied for its health benefits and shows that when part of an overall healthy lifestyle and diet, squash can help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Click on the words above to read about other ways we naturopathic doctors work with patients who want to prevent or treat these diagnoses.
The seeds of squash often find their way into the compost bin or trash. But I realized, wait — these seeds are also nutritious and delicious! This simple recipe can be used similarly for any squash or pumpkin seeds.
First, scoop out the seed-filled insides, separate the seeds from the pulpy strands by using a strainer with warm water running over the seeds. You don’t need to remove all the strands of squash as they will crisp up and be easily removed after baking. No need for added oil or to spray your pan, just spread a single layer the slippery batch of seeds on a baking sheet, and put in the oven at 250 degrees. Cooking on a low heat helps to preserve the fatty acid content. Sprinkle with a dash of tamari when they’ve dried out a bit and let that sizzle in among the seeds for a few more minutes. Do tend them closely — periodically get in there and stir the slowly roasting seeds. They will burn as the moisture escapes and the flavor concentrates. These seeds know just how to dry themselves out, puff up a little over the course of a half hour or so, to bring out that desirable crunch factor and a delicious toasted taste.
I let the browned seeds cool and store them in small glass jars and even give some away as small autumn gifts. Sometimes I toss a few on top of stuffed squash, in a circular process of linking the seed back to the finished product! Toasted squash seeds keep for weeks or more. I have on occasion found a small batch in the back of the fridge and feel triumphant that I have not eaten them all up the day I made them!