Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Educating people about eating squash

This response to Pumpkin Patch Dream Realized came to me as email, but is too good and important not to share with all. 

Dorothy's main concern is food pantry participants' lack of knowledge of what to do with squash, and she makes some suggestions about what to do about it. Please read this message and comment on the blog with other ideas you have to help promote eating squash.
Josh, and others donating to food pantries,

If you haven't already, a quick something to consider over the summer. I was at the Allied Boys and Girls Club food pantry last fall and they were having a hard time giving away squash. They said that the residents were unfamiliar with it and had no idea what to do with it.

It would be good to have preparation information and simple recipes available. Most food panty participants do not do fancy cooking and do not have money to buy elaborate ingredients, so it would generally be a waste of paper to print more than very basic recipes.

A photo display of various squash matched up with info about each that would stay available for the season, then a couple recipes for varieties available that day, would be perfect.
royalty-free photo from

Pumpkin pies for the holidays would be about as fancy as they generally get. Even for that, they're used to making it from a can, so start with how to prepare a pumpkin to be made into a pie.... and reasons it's worth the effort compared to pouring it out of a can.

Hopefully you planted a lot of spaghetti squash. I'd really love to see people appreciating it instead of pasta.

If there will be decorative squash and pumpkins, instructions for what to do with those would be good also, especially those that focus on children's activities.

Would American Family be willing to work with food pantry coordinators to help figure out a marketing program to help integrate fresh vegetables into their clients diets? There really is an amazingly large hole.

Dorothy Krause
Fitchburg Common Council
Dane County Board of Supervisors


  1. Winter squash is our main cold season carbohydrate. We slice it up, brush with oil and roast, simple and wonderful as is. I also make pies, custards and soup with it first roasting it, then using the blender to simplify production… very streamlined. I bake muffins with about 2 cups of shredded raw squash of any kind in the batch and make a kind of squash latkes/pancake for breakfasts and lunches. They're very versatile and delicious.

  2. Promotion ideas:
    I agree that pictures and simple recipes are the way to go. I would suggest including a picture of the squash as harvested and as prepared. Don't the CSAs do this same thing? Maybe we could borrow some ideas from them.

    Recipe ideas:
    My favorite squash recipe as a child was spaghetti squash with bits of bacon and parmesan cheese. There was probably some butter mixed in too, but that could be substituted with olive oil or maybe removed altogether.

    I think zucchini is best just sliced in half and grilled, with maybe some salt-less seasoning sprinkled on the cut side when done.

  3. One more point, again similar to the CSAs - don't just make a sign to post with preparation information. Provide recipe cards or pages for people to take home with their vegetables.

  4. CAC has put together some informative handouts on how to store and prepare winter squash. These handouts were distributed to food pantries last year, but they don't always make it out onto the shelves with the produce. We also have a poster that identifies the different types of squash that our food pantry gardens grow. We are happy to pass along these materials to anyone by email, so let me know if you would like them. There are many fabulous ways to prepare winter and summer squash!

    Michelle Shively
    CAC Gardens Specialist

  5. I grow several varieties of pumpkins. My family uses some of them to eat, some of them are carved for Halloween, and the rest I display on the front porch until Halloween. It would be great to have them eaten but I have hesitated to donate them since I wasn't sure they would get used. If they would get used, where should I donate them?

    Also, I have about 60 broccoli plants and some of them are beginning to produce heads. They, of course, have lots of nice large leaves. Frankly, my family won't eat the leaves, although I think they are just fine to eat.

    I would like to donate them to a food bank but again I am concerned whether they would be used. I totally understand the attitude that you shouldn't take food that you don't know what to do with, but they are really perfectly good greens. Would they be acceptable to donate and would they be used?

    I would like to try growing collards which I am positive would be taken. Would this be a good time to start them for a fall crop?

  6. John. Thanks for your comments. I don't know when it's time to plant collards, but they would likely be popular. This autumn I'm going to try planting a fall/spring crop for the first time. After I pull out my garlic, I'm going to heavily mulch that area and in late August plant spinach for fall harvest and if I'm lucky, it will overwinter and I can harvest next spring.

  7. Michelle,
    Our "pantry committee" will bring produce directly to some pantries, so we would love to get your materials to distribute with the squash we bring in. I'll be in touch.

  8. I have had problems with powdery mildew, especially in wet years. I have checked the UW Extension Gardens out on Mineral Point road to see what varieties they grow that seem resistant.

    Musque du Provence was especially resistant. It grows large 20 to 30 pound fruits, somewhat Cinderella shaped, with thick walls that make very good pie. They turn orange very late if at all, though. Seeds are available from Johnny's Seeds.

    Galeuse D'Eysines is moderately resistant. That is the one that has an orangish-pink skin with the tan raised "peanut-hull" veins. It grows medium sized fruits with very thick walls. They are somewhat watery, but very sweet and not fibrous. Seeds are available from Jung's.

    Other varieties that seem resistant but I have not grown are Speckled Hound (orange with green speckles and an irregular almost butternut shape) and a large one called "Pumpkin Smash." Seeds for both of these are hard to find.

    --John Carey

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