Unlike other countries Australia keeps it simple when it comes to the squash family.
Ask an Australian to name different varieties of vegetables in the squash family and they are sure to reply with yellow squash, zucchinis and if your lucky pumpkins (including of the butternut which in fact is not a pumpkin at all).
Ask an American of British though, and they would easily tell you about gourds, they would know or name 3 or 4 different varieties of squash, zucchinis and the pumpkin.
Now a days fresh produce is becoming less and less regional as technologies in horticulture, agronomy and agriculture increase. With these technologies come different produce and the excitement a foodie has to play with a new ingredient.
The Facts & Details:
The squash family are categorised into Summer and Winter Squash. These categories have little to do with their time of availability, but rather their harvesting.
Winter Squash are left to harvest longer and are picked when mature, this normally means that their skins are tougher and usually un-eatable. The winter squash are also considered to have higher levels of vitamin A and C. Traditionally they were left to harvest longer as their tougher exterior protected the golden yellow flesh allowing them to be stored safely during the months of winter.
In Australia these include Butternut, Betanut, Queensland blue and the Kent pumpkin (also known as a Jap pumpkin).
Summer Squash on the other hand are harvested young, during the growing season while their skin is tender. Summer squash need to be consumed quite soon after picking and require little to no cooking.
In Australia they include zucchini and yellow squash.
Squash are part of the Cucurbita genus, which includes pumpkins, marrons, zucchini, cucumber and even some melons.
About the Gem Squash:
•They are the size of a small grapefruit and are distinguished by their tough deep green skin.
•The tough exterior protects the orange flesh that is sweeter then your average pumpkin.
•They can be baked, roasted, boiled or stuffed.
•When picking make sure that they are firm and deep green in colour, avoid gem squash that are soft at their stem as they will be older and not as sweet.
How to Cook:
You can cook gem squash like any other pumpkin and roast, steam or mash them. Their size and shape are unique and appealing however, that I suggest you use this to your best advantage when cooking.
Cut the squash in half along its middle (this means one half will be the stem end and the other will be the base). Boil for 6 to10 minutes in salted water, or until the flesh is soft.
With a tea towel pick up half the squash and scoop out the seeds, be careful though because they will be very hot. Once you have removed the seeds add a knob of butter, salt and pepper and mash the flesh up with the spoon inside the skin. Repeat with the other half and either serve two halves together in their unique ‘bowls’ or transfer the mashed squash all into one.
Alternatively cook using the same method as above and add your choice of ingredients such as freshly grated Parmesan, pesto, balsamic vinegar and olive oil or a mixture of fresh herbs to create a delicious alternative to your pumpkin mash.
Another idea is to mash them with your favourite ingredients, sprinkle with some breadcrumbs or cheese place them under the grill or in a hot oven for a few minutes.
Food for Thought: Try them next time you go to buy pumpkin for a twist on the usual.