Early fall is one of my favorite times of year. The weather is perfect, the leaves are changing and winter squash is in (inexpensive) abundance at local farms and farmers markets so I buy in bulk and save it to help our food budget all year.
I take the kids to several local “pick your own” type farms where you can pick your own pumpkins, apples and winter squash. We stock up on all of the above, but one of my favorites is large winter squashes like Cushaw squash.
Never heard of it? I hadn’t either and it is because it isn’t often found in a normal grocery store.
Our Favorite Winter Squash
A cushaw or cucurbita mixta is a green and white striped winter squash that can also produce a spring harvest. They can grow very large, sometimes over 20 pounds) and taste like a mixture between a pumpkin, acorn squash and summer squash (in my opinion).
This heirloom squash has been around for thousands of years and is a good source of Vitamin C. They are extremely tolerant to heat and the squash vine borer, which kills many other types of squash and pumpkins that aren’t sprayed with pesticides. For this reason, Cushaw are often organic or no-spray even if they aren’t certified (ask your farmer).
Since they are heirloom, cushaw seeds can be saved for planting and we’ve grown years worth of squash from the seeds of our very first one.
These squash are resilient after harvest and can be stored for up to four or five months without being cut. I have several 20+ pound Cushaws on my kitchen table right now, but I’ve also been working on freezing them for easy use.
Preserving cushaw squash is a simple process and pre-chopped and frozen squash is a great addition to a breakfast stir fry, to soups and stews, roasted in the oven or as a pumpkin substitute in pumpkin pie.
I hope that these age old squash make a comeback and become more common. If you are trying to feed your family real food on a tight budget, help the cause and buy a few of these to preserve and use all year round. Save the seeds and compost the peels and you have a no-waste, cost-effective real food.
I bought several really large (20+ pound) of these cushaw winter squashes at a local no-spray farm for $6 each and later found them at another farm for only $5.
After cutting them up, I was left with 12+ pounds of ready to use squash, making the total per pound $0.50 or less.
How to Cut a Cushaw to Preserve:
I found an easy way to cut and store these cushaw (or any other winter squash) and they can be put in a freezer bag and frozen. I’ve found that it isn’t even necessary to pre-freeze on a baking sheet to keep them from sticking together.
What I do:
Use a very sharp knife to (carefully) cut off the ends of the squash. Then, I cut off the neck in one large piece if it is straight, or several 5-6 inch pieces if it isn’t.
I then slice the rest of the wide part of the squash in 4-5 inch circles (see below) and scoop out the seeds.
TIP: Save the seeds by air drying them and use them to plant your own next year.
From here, I carefully cutting off the skin with the knife. I’ve found that this is much easier than peeling the squash with a peeler. Once all the skin has been removed, I cut the flesh of the squash into roughly 1/2 inch cubes and put in freezer bags.
NOTE: I used regular clear plastic bags in the picture to show the size of the squash pieces but I prefer to use these reusable freezer bags when possible.
I store these bags of squash in the fridge for up to a week, or the freezer for up to a year.
This method also works really well with butternut squash or any other winter squash that can be easily peeled. Acorn squash is more difficult to peel effectively, so I prefer to pre-roast these and scoop out the flesh and store that way.
Ever bought winter squash? If not- head out to a local farm or farmers market and find some of these ASAP! How do you use winter squash?