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Healthy Eating by Shelby Shelby

Visit the Farmer’s Market for Fall Produce

The last Farmer’s Market of the 2019 season is coming September 21st from 8 AM to 12 PM at the Ross-Melton Pavilion at the Charles Black City Park. While you are there shopping for fresh and local fall produce, try out a fall favorite—winter squash. Winter squashes are nutritious, easy to store, and delicious! Varieties of winter squash include acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and even pumpkins.

Winter squashes are nutritious additions to any meal. Their bright yellow or orange flesh hints to a special nutrient they contain—beta carotene. Beta carotene is a nutrients that acts as an antioxidant and may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. In our bodies, beta carotene can also be made into vitamin A, a vitamin essential for healthy eyes, a strong immune system, and for healthy organs. Eating your orange vegetables can help you consume plenty of this great nutrient.

Not only are winter squashes nutritious, they are easy to store. Unlike summer squash, which require refrigeration and quick consumption to prevent spoilage, winter squash can last for about 3 months without refrigeration (some can even last longer).  This guarantees that you will be able to enjoy fresh local vegetables throughout the winter. Your first step to enjoying winter squash is to choose a fresh squash. Your winter squash should be heavy for its size with a thick, hard skin that is without bruises, cuts, or soft spots. Once you choose the perfect squash be sure to store it whole and uncut in a cool, dark place. The ideal temperature for storage is about 50-55 degrees F. In fact, refrigeration can cause your squash to spoil faster. Remember, if you are storing the winter squash at room temperature, the squash will not last as long.

To enjoy your winter squash, try these tips below:

•Roast butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkin: Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F and peel and dice your squash. Spread the diced squash on a sheet pan and drizzle a bit of oil on the squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and any other seasonings you desire). Cook until squash is fork tender, about 40 minutes. Serve as a side or puree. Pureed squash is wonderful for making soups or as an addition to other favorites, like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pie filling, or other baked goods, like muffins/breads.

•Prepare your spaghetti squash in the microwave for a quick pasta substitute: Score the squash lengthways down the middle with a knife and pierce the skin all over with a fork to vent the squash. Microwave the squash in a microwave safe dish for 5 minutes to soften it. With care, remove the squash and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and sprinkle the flesh with salt and pepper. Flip the squash halves upside down in the microwave-safe dish and fill with about 1 inch of water. Microwave for 5 more minutes the check for doneness (a fork should easily pierce the outside of the squash). Scrape the flesh of the squash with a fork to make spaghetti-like strands. Serve in place of or in addition to pasta noodles.

•Save the seeds: Roast winter squash seeds for a tasty snack. Add them to granola, snack mix, or on top of a salad.


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