The tale of Elizabeth the washerwoman and the blue Hubbard squash

Blue Hubbard Squash–the size of a young turkey!

This past growing season I’ve had the rewarding opportunity to be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) run by Deb Lentz and her husband Richard Andres called Tantre Farm. This Michigan farm has been totally organic since 1993 and produces the most amazing food!

As part of our last share of the extended season, Deb set out some blue Hubbard squash for us to try.

These boogers can run up to 40 pounds, but the one I selected ran about eight. Still a challenge. Because the outer shell is hard and brittle, Deb suggested I roast it first at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes to soften it so that it could be broken into manageable pieces and de-seeded.

This I did, but even after the baking, other than making a small nick in the neck of the squash with my big knife, nothing was happening. That squash wasn’t budging!

So I took it outside, raised it above my head, and smashed it on the cement driveway:

Squashed squash, after landing on cement driveway

Voila! A broken squash. Very satisfying. Not hard to break into pieces at all, at this point.

Then I had to take out the innards. The size of the squash is misleading, because unlike a butternut squash, it has a big inner cavity filled with fibers and pumpkin-sized seeds. Kinda of gross, actually, now that I think of it.

Innards of a Hubbard squash

But after all the parts I wasn’t going to use were scraped away, I was left with the shell and the real meat of the squash, ready to go back into the oven. The squash has grown in surface area at this point, and I’ve graduated from a cake pan to a cookie sheet to bake it:

Deseeded blue Hubbard squash, ready for the second oven run

Oops! Not quite ready. According to the Joy of Cooking, my absolute reference for the kitchen, the squash should be cut side down, with a quarter-inch of water and foil covered. Pretend the foil cover is in place:

blue Hubbard squash, cut side down, water added

At this point it goes back in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. The house should start to feel cozy-warm by now, with the great smell of roasting squash wafting through.

Ding! And out it comes. Let it cool a bit, and the meat is easy to scrape off the shell pieces with a spoon. I dumped it all in the mixer, added some butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a little maple syrup:

Add butter, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and maple syrup…

The end result, a generous quart of squash, filled with fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, and niacin. Plus it tastes good, with a rich, complex flaor! What’s not to like?

Mushed squash puree

I scooped some of it into containers for freezing and ate the rest, right from the bowl. Yum!

blue Hubbard squash, ready for the freezer

Kudos, Deb, for a great recommendation of a new vegetable to try.

And Elizabeth, the washerwoman? That story goes back a ways. According to the legend, a sea captain found a new variety of squash in South America in the late 1800s and gave the seeds to his sister Sarah Martin. She was a shy sort of woman and gave the seeds to her friend Elizabeth Hubbard to try.

Elizabeth in turn passed them on to a man she washed clothes for, a seedsman named James Gregory. They made his fortune. Because of the popularity of the squash, he went on to become the largest seed grower in America by the early 1900s and named the squash in Elizabeth’s honor.

If her friend Sarah had been a litte braver, perhaps we would be celebrating the Martin squash instead of the Hubbard.

If you don’t dare, you may never have a squash named after you!

What about you.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve cooked?
What is your favorite, cook-all-the-time comfort meal?

 

Connecting with the physical

 

Légumes

Légumes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a mind girl. Most of my life my brain has directed how I do things, where I go, what I eat, when I sleep. That worked fine when I was twenty, or even thirty. Now, it causes me problems, sometimes.

Having a long weekend with not a lot going on, I tried an experiment. I would pay attention to my physical being, I would listen to what my body was telling me.

The parameters:

1) I’d keep taking the meds the docs prescribed. Always a good idea.

2) I’d switch from coffee to tea. Since this was only for 48 hours, I didn’t want to battle caffeine withdrawal, but at the same time I wanted to be mindful of what I was drinking.

3) To quiet my mind, I planned to do meditation. But in short bursts. Twelve minutes, four times a day. Why twelve? Ten seemed too short and fifteen too long. Hey, it’s my experiment, I get to make the rules. 🙂

4) Yoga and stretching in the morning. That wasn’t new. A walk in the afternoon. That was. I wanted to challenge my belief that “if I didn’t exercise in the morning I never would.”

5) Switch from my journal on the computer to a long-hand version. This would tap into a part of me that my faster brain didn’t always access.

5) And the big one, eat only rice–as much as I wanted–and lots of water.  I wanted to examine my “mental cravings” and concentrate on eating only when I was physically hungry. Having a monotonous , short-term diet seemed a good way to do this. At the end of the weekend, I would to return to a healthy, balanced diet.

I’d keep my normal routine of household chores and weekend errands. A monk I am not.

My discoveries:

1) I didn’t make it the whole two days on the diet. I’d gone to the farmer’s market the Friday before, and there were peaches sitting on the counter, tantalizing me with their aroma. About two-thirds of the way through day two I gave up on rice with salt/pepper, rice with cinnamon, rice with Herbs Provence, and sat down to a delicious baked potato, heirloom tomatoes, organic cucumber slices, and snow peas. But I appreciated the melange of textures and the explosions of wonderful color more since I’d been away from them.

And I find I am more mindful of what I eat later in the day. I found I craved crunchy things. But maybe I can substitute carrot and celery sticks for the chips with cheddar cheese. 🙁 Well, most of the time, anyway.

2) I found I didn’t miss the coffee. I liked the variety of teas–green, Assam, oolong, English Breakfast, Earl Grey. The heating of the water  and doling out of tea leaves was a pain, though. I’m used to my automatic coffee pot. I foresee another gadget on my Christmas list!

3) The Yoga/stretching was valuable. I walked one day and found I skipped the next. But on the day I walked, I slept much better. I might try seeing if I can incorporate more of this into my regular routine.

4) Journaling was so-so. I’ll probably go back to the faster way on the computer. My fingers thanked me.

5) The biggest surprise was the meditation. interspersing meditation throughout the day allowed me to observe the thoughts running through my head and let go of some of them. Early on in the weekend, my thoughts were from unfinished business from the work week. Later on, I would concoct elaborate menus of amazing foods–until I let go of these, too, and just meditated. Last to leave were my writing ideas, including this blog entry: What would I say, how would I say it.

But even in 15 minute bursts, I found after the initial flurry of mental activity, my mind would quiet. I became calmer, happier, more able to slow down time during the rest of the day. I want to incorporate this practice within my regular daily routine.

So…it really didn’t take that much more time than my regular weekend pursuits. Since I wasn’t cooking, I had time left over to meditate. I gave up some reading time to go walking, but I still found time to read later in the evening. I was able to let go of work and enjoy the sound of an early morning serenade by a canyon towhee, and the glimpse of a crescent moon rising.

Will I do this mini-retreat again? I think so. But in addition, I’m going to add some of the things I learned to my every day living patterns. Always a good idea to take care of ourselves!

 

Taming the wild thistle

artichoke

artichoke (Photo credit: wundoroo)

Ah, the mighty artichoke! According to legend, it was created by Zeus when he turned a rejected lover into one.  (Zeus had a habit of doing this).

Upset with the propensity for schools using Native American caricatures as school mascots, the Scottsdale (Arizona) Junior college adopted the artichoke for their mascot. At least their football stars must be healthy.

The artichoke is packed with nutrition, ranking seventh out of the USDA top twenty for  anti-oxident foods. It’s a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Plus, artichokes look cool on the buffet table next to a delectable dip.

Have I convinced you yet?

My goal, when I found two in my coop food basket this week, was to learn how to cook them. And they can be a challenge. They are a thistle, which means the points of the leaves are prickery, hence the scissors; you trim each one.

Then you have to cut off the point. I tried two knives and found a serrated one worked best.

shot with teas

See all the pink leaves? Those come from the middle of the artichoke, once you cut off the top. You pull on these out–you haven’t lost anything by doing this: they are too small to hold dip.

all the equipment

After the pink leaves, you need to scrape out the inner stuff with the spoon. The official terminology for the inner stuff is  “a thicket of fuzz called a choke” according to the Joy of Cooking.  That takes care of the choke part; I’m not sure where the “arti” comes in!

Important to scrape it all out, because if you don’t it doesn’t go away, but rather, sits on top of the good part, the heart of the vegetable, like those fine fish bones you can feel on the tip of your tongue when you try to eat a piece of trout. (Ignore the trout, though, because this is a vegetarian recipe).

When you get through all this preliminary block-and-tackle work, the rest is a piece of cake.  Plunk the artichokes in a Pyrex dish and cover, then microwave for 5-8 minutes.microwaved artichoke

Nuke some butter to go with, and dig in:

artichoke with butter

The mortal remains fill a dish like lobster shells. And yes, I missed a thicket or two of fuzz!

mortal remains