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Fall Means a Cornucopia of Squash

The term “summer” and “winter” squash are not really meant to confuse the consumer.  In fact, many traditional “winter” squashes become available in late summer, fall and into the winter.  The reality is, that it the term “winter” squash originally meant that a squash would store until December.  

Winter squash comes in many shapes and colors.  From round, elongated, pear shaped with flesh that ranges from gold, grey, green and orange.  Winter squash have hard, thick skins that are designed to be stored in a cool, dark, well ventilated area.  Winter squash varieties tend to develop a higher beta-carotene (precursor for vitamin A), and include some of the standards like:  acorn, banana squash, butternut, carnival, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and the turban squash.

Certainly one of the easiest ways to cook winter squash is to bake them whole. Washyour squash, slit a hole or two in it so the steam can escape, then bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for about an hour.  Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, top with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mmmm…..

Acorn Squash – certainly one of the most common varieties, shaped similar to an acorn.  With distinct ribs that run the length of it’s hard blackish-dark green skin easily make it identifiable.

 

Banana Squash – easy to identify as a bright orange, finely textured squash nearly two feet in length and 6 inches in diameter shaped almost like a giant orange banana.  It has a sweeter taste.  (no photo)

Butternut Squash – readily found throughoutNorthern Colorado, the butternut has a beige color and shaped somewhat like an ob-long bell or vase.  It’s a bit more watery than most winter squash with a fine textured, orange flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor.   Typically, the oranger the squash, the riper the squash – meaning it will likely be drier and a little sweeter.

Carnival Squash – a cream colored smaller squash with orange spots or pale green with dark green spots in a vertical fashion.  The meat is a yellow color, and tastes similar to sweet potatoes and butternut. 

Delicata Squash (one of my personal favorites) – also known as the “sweet potato” squash, it’s roots are reported to be Bohemian.  It has a creamy pulp that tastes very similar to sweet potatoes.  A narrower squash, about 8 to 10 inches long, generally yellow with perhaps some green vertical stripes.  After research, the Delicata is an heirloom variety that was originally introduced into theUSand gained popularity from 1894 to the 1920’s, but is now making a huge come back in the culinary world as a revived favorite by chefs.      

Hubbard Squash – these are very large and irregularly shaped with a skin that almost appears to be “warted” and irregular.  The range from a blue / gray to a green.  Due to their size, the hubbard squash is often sold in cut pieces.  The flesh is yellow and tends to be moist.  This squash is generally peeled and boiled, cut up and roasted or cut small and steamed or sautéed.  The hubbard is perfect for pies.  One interesting fact, is that the hubbard, if in good condition, can be successfully stored for up to six months at 50 to 55 degrees.

Kabocha Squash (also another of my favorites) – a Japanese squash, dark green in color, about 4 inches tall and about 8 inches in diameter.  Kabocha may be cooked whole or split, with a rich sweet flavor and often dry and flaky.  I like to top this with some butter, cinnamon and a little brown sugar. 

Spaghetti Squash – a noodle squash, almost like a small, tan watermelon.  It has a golden rind with a mild, nut like flavor.  When cooked, the flesh separates in strands resembling spaghetti or angel hair pasta.  So, this squash is the exception and it would be best to top this one with butter and perhaps parmesan cheese, some garlic, or even spaghetti sauce.

Sweet Dumpling – this small squash resembles a miniature pumpkin with the top pushed in.  Golden yellow, with green vertical stripes, it weighs about a half a pound, and has a sweet, tender orange colored flesh that makes it ideal for roasting for individual servings or even stuffing.   (no photo)

Turban Squash – with a variety in colors ranging from bright orange, green and even white, it looks like a bulblike cap swollen up.  The shape and fantastic color makes the turban squash popular for fall centerpieces, with a golden yellow flesh that has a nutty flavor.  (no photo)

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How to Pick a Good Cantaloupe

As we get into the summer, somehow a sweet, juicy cantaloupe accents the best of summer. 

Cantaloupe grow extremely well in Weld and Larimer counties.  However, the most famous cantaloupe are grown in Rocky Ford.  Dubbed the “sweet melon capital of the world,” it’s the consistent high sugar content of those melons that Coloradoans have grown to love.

While most cantaloupe avearge 10 percent sugar content, many of the Rocky Ford cantaloupe averages 12 percent, and some as high as 16 percent sugar content.

How do you choose a cantaloupe?

This is the single question I am asked at least two dozen times at every day at our Denver Farmers’ Market.  I’ve seen people shake, poke, prod, squeeze, sniff and just about everything in-between.  The truth is, cantaloupe are one of the easiest melons to select because of it’s thin skin.  Depending on the variety, it should have a light tawny tan all over.  The cantaloupe should be slightly firm all over, but not super hard, nor mushy.

Once you’ve examined the texture and color, and the skin is firm, then smell the stem end from where it was picked.  It should have a sweet aroma.  If it doesn’t have a smell at all, it might not quite be ripe to eat, but will be in a couple of days. 

To enjoy your perfect cantaloupe, wash thoroughly, then cut the cantaloupe in half, scoop out the seeds.

Enjoy~

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Where is the produce grown?

A majority of the vegetables are grown on the family farm in Gilcrest, Colorado.  Farming is a weather savvy venture, so to ensure your baskets are full, we do have relationships with neighboring farmers when we need to supplement our crops.

Some crops are later in the summer, but are very poplular, so we do have tomatoes grown hydroponically in a Colorado greenhouse for us until we start to pick our own three acres of field tomatoes.  Greenhouse tomatoes sometimes have a reputation as being green and flavorless, however our locally grown tomatoes are vine-ripened full of scent and amazing flavor.

They are so good you just have to try them to believe the taste and when you do, you’ll be hooked!  We also have a small crop of strawberries we supplement with premium strawberries from a small farm in California with a sweet delicious taste so close even we can’t tell the difference.  Garlic, is a later crop in Colorado, so until September we receive our pesticide-free garlic from Arizona.

We also take advantage of the State’s most popular produce by picking up the famous sweet corn from our friends in Olathe, heading to Palisade for their mouth watering tree-ripened fruit; peaches, pears, plums, apples, and we finally we truck to Rocky Ford for their famous sweet melons.

As famous as Olathe Sweet Corn is, we and many of  our customers boast ’s World Famous Sweet Corn is far better in taste.  My opinion the Olathe is bigger kernel and ships well, while our World Famous ’s Sweet Corn is a smaller and much sweeter.  I really love both!

 

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Is your farm organic or conventional?

farms has always used conventional farming, although we follow many organic and natural practices (such as the use of compost and natural fertilizers).  Below is a link to an article, written by Berkley University, explaining the difference between organic and conventional, and that organic isn’t necessarily what the public is lead to believe.  Regardless, always make sure you wash your produce.

http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~lhom/organictext.html

 

 

 

 

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What about the cantaloupe listeria outbreak?

While the listeria outbreak has been a horrible occurrence, we are assured by a couple of things:  Jensen Farms where the outbreak occurred is actually in Holly, CO, over a 100 miles from the town of Rocky Ford.  We personally have Rocky Ford’s best cantaloupe and watermelon grown just for us where the melons are loaded onto our truck straight from the field.  We had no problems personally eating them as a family of six, and we had no complaints from our customers at various  farmer’s markets.  All that being said this does serve as a good reminder to wash all your fruits and vegetables.