Three Cheers for the Delicious Delicate Delicata

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Last autumn, when I was working as a volunteer in a demonstration garden in Chicago, I discovered the melt-in-your-mouth merits of the sweet, "meaty" Delicata Squash at a lunchtime "tasting" of it.

With that first bite, I knew that this veggie was a keeper and that next growing season I had to harvest and serve up some of that delicious Delicata squash myself.

And, I wasn't going to give any of those heirloom winter squash away, either, as I often do with other veggies I grow. They would be in a category of their own called "all for me and mine."

In early spring I discovered that two grams of seeds cost $2.99.

Since then, in my edible garden that little package of seeds has easily produced about a dozen of them. 

Before I discovered how easy it is to grow this rediscovered variety of heirloom squash, in its season, at Whole Foods I paid about two bucks for one squash that weighed just over a pound.  And, the Delicata were just as pricy at the various farmer's markets.

So, in this my year of horticultural exploration and experimentation, I am now planning to also harvest a few of the Delicata for their seeds.  This will be my first time gathering seeds from the plants I grow to have them germinate and hopefully grow again.

But in doing all this sustainable edible gardening, that has really been my aim all along.  I'm going to try it with my heirloom beans and tomatoes, too, using a reference book and a how-to visual resource I found on YouTube. 

So, why do I grow Delicata Honey Boat Winter Squash?  Oh come on.

You can fill it with quinoa and such, or create your own stuffing of whatever.  I've also seen recipes where you pack pieces of kale, apples, leeks and raisins into the squash boat, bake it all for about an hour or so, and savor those vegetables and fruits served in that tan and striped skin. 

I also plan to bake it in casseroles with my homegrown potatoes, eggplant, onion, garlic and herbs, and so on. And, my spouse Kevin simply slices it into rings that he grills, after a quick douse of, or dunk into, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  For us, a dash of sea salt and pepper is optional.

Let's "squash" any rumors before they start:  What's in this for me is the rich and creamy comfort food that makes my stomach feel sated and warm in fall and winter.  And, I do have a few recipes.  They are from my foodie friends and magazines, and there is a steady stream of them.

Eating this soup with a side of crusty warm bread -- with a smattering of butter and a dribble of fresh honey -- is heavenly.

Can you taste it yet?  Oh yeah.

Around here, that's what's happening in the peak of this harvest season.  I am planning to make enough Delicata fixings to freeze now and serve later for our Thanksgiving dinner...and pull out again for when in the dead of winter I need a subtle reminder of the brisk autumnal day when I harvested the Delicata and made all that sensational soup.

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Posted: September 16th, 2013 8:15 PM

Yum! I'm ready to try growing them next summer.

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