Acorn squash

Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata), also called pepper squash or Des Moines squash,is a winter squash with distinctive longitudinal ridges on its exterior and sweet, yellow-orange flesh inside. Although considered a winter squash, acorn squash belongs to the same species (Cucurbita pepo) as all summer squashes (including zucchini and crookneck squash).

Indigenous to North and Central America, the squash was introduced to early European settlers by Native Americans.

Completely matured fruit measures about 4 inches in width and 7 inches in length, and weighs about 400 to 700 grams. Its outer deep green skin marked by ridges running lengthwise. As in other winter squash types, acorn squash also features a hard skin. It prefers organic, well-drained, sandy soils for best growth. After about 35-40 days after plantation, yellow flowers appears which soon develop into attractive, elongated fruit pods.

Inside, flesh of acorn squash is golden-yellow as in pumpkins. They come in a variety of colors and sizes dark green, yellow, yellow-orange, variegated; however, the most common variety of acorn squash is the dark green squash.

Apart from its fruits, winter squash blossoms including acorn flowers are popular items in the kitchen and commonly employed to make a great side dish. Male blossoms generally picked up, and female flowers left for fruitigs. Small numbers of female flowers with intact, very tiny fruit (baby acorn squash) can also be sold in the markets and indeed, fetch a higher price. Acorn greens (tips and tendrils) also enjoyed in some Southeastern countries like Philippines.

The most common variety is dark green on the outside, often with a single splotch of orange on the side or top, however newer varieties have arisen, including golden acorn, so named for its glowing yellow color; as well as varieties that are white. Acorn squash can also be variegated. As the name suggests, its shape resembles an acorn. Acorn squashes typically weigh one to two pounds and are between four and seven inches long.Acorn squash is one of the most perishable winter squashes, lasting only a few weeks in storage. The stem has a prickly feel.

Acorn squash is very easily grown: seeds are started after the danger of frost is past and the soil is warm or started for transplant 3 to 4 weeks before the predicted last frost date in the area. In one method, seeds directly sown are placed one inch deep, 5 to 6 to a hill, where hills are separated by 6 feet in all directions.

About 85 days after germination, acorn squash are ready to be harvested. Curing takes seven to ten days in a sheltered area outside or a warm dry place (like a storage space) protected from frost. The curing process helps the fruit keep longer before spoiling.

As with other squash varieties, the acorn squash vine makes yellow trumpet flowers that are edible. Tops about three inches from the end are also edible and they are one of the most common vegetables in the Philippines (as greens).

Acorn squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sauteed or steamed. For savory recipes, it may be stuffed with rice, meat or vegetable mixtures. If a sweeter dish is desired, maple syrup is often used to fill the halves prior to baking, or used in a sauce or glaze to enhance the squash’s flavor. The seeds of the squash can also be eaten, usually after being toasted first. Acorn squash can be used to prepare squash soup.

This squash is not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes, but is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese.

9 Amazing Benefits

1.Acorn squash nutrition is relatively higher in calories than pumpkin and pattypan. 100 grams of raw fruit holds 40 calories, almost the same as for butternut squash (45 cal). Besides, it carries no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is a good source of dietary fiber.

2.Acorn squash is a gluten-free food ingredient. It can be a good substitute for gluten sensitive (celiac disease) people

3.Fresh fruits carry relatively modest amounts of vitamin-A than pumpkin; provide about 367 IU per 100 g. Vitamin-A is important for cell growth and development, and for good vision.

4.Unlike other winter squash types like pumpkin and butternut squash, acorn is a modest source of flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

5.Together with vitamin-A, pigment compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease processes.

6.Fresh acorn holds relatively more amounts of vitamin C (18% of RDA /100 g), pyridoxine, and thiamin than pumpkin. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis in bones, cartilage, and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron.

7.It provides 17 µg or 4% of RDA per 100 gm of folates. Folate is a necessary element for cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately during early pregnancy, it may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn.

8.Like other winter squash varieties, acorn fruit also has less sodium (1 mg/100 g) but good amounts of potassium (347 mg/100 g), an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressing effects of sodium.

9.Further, acorn squash carry modest levels of other B-complex groups of vitamins like pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.