Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011...7:56 am

Squash for Thanksgiving: Appreciation of a Native Vegetable

Thanksgiving Decoration by alasam

Thanksgiving is coming soon and if you are like TheGardenLady, you are planning your festive meal. In contemplating what to serve, it struck me that there is one vegetable that is so tied up with the holiday, a vegetable that one could use as a basis for almost every course in the menu, that we should truly give thanks to the Native Americans who taught the Pilgrims about it. The vegetable I am writing about is the squash, in the genus Cucurbita which includes the pumpkin. So this year I am planning to be a little more creative with my Thanksgiving menu- making the theme of the menu based on squashes. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or a carnivore, this might be something for you to consider this Thanksgiving.

First, to decorate the table, I think an assortment of squashes can look very festive as a centerpiece. It is a centerpiece that will hold up and last and can be used over the winter. Unlike cut flowers, winter squashes last and do not have to be refrigerated and can be used for months. (The thinner skinned, summer squashes like zucchini will have to be put in the refrigerator after a few days.) I thought I might put the squashes on a base of yellow fall leaves, if I can still find leaves by Thanksgiving and add some curlicued streamers. But one person’s blog went one step further and carved the squashes to resemble flowers.  See here.  I don’t know if I am so ambitious as to cook a full meal for the family and have time to carve my decorations.

For the soup course there are so many squash soup recipes online that it is difficult to choose.  And so many of the recipes look so simple- just a slight change or tweak in ingredients and it would not be difficult to make two different soups so guests can have a choice and you come off looking like a gourmet cook.

For the salad course, one always thinks of raw vegetables. But one might not think of eating squash raw. Well, the origin of the Native American word squash comes from the Narangasett word askutasquash, which means a green thing eaten raw. So grate the zucchini raw. Or try the butternut squash grated raw for a lovely carrot like salad look.  See here.

Two courses down and two to go. But remember, you can always have a squash type of bread with the meal. See here or here.

If you must have your traditional roast turkey, how about serving it on a “nest” of spaghetti squash colored brown with turkey gravy- perhaps with jewels of freshly prepared cranberries on the nest under the bird. Or you can be less traditional and make a great stew cooked and served in a whole pumpkin with turkey or with beef or vegetarian or vegan. Again there are so many recipes for stew served in a pumpkin to choose from; if you want to have turkey in the stew, you can try this recipe.  What a pretty presentation this makes. If you make the stew, you could prepare it the day before, up to the final baking, refrigerate it overnight which melds the flavors and then finish it off the day of your dinner. This can be a more relaxed preparation for the cook.

Then there are the side dishes that go with the turkey. Is all this too much squash overkill? Or do you want to continue this idea of appreciation of a native vegetable in your holiday of thanks. Sides dishes can include squash and potatoes, which seem to be a match made in heaven.  See here. And then there are those darling baby patty pan squash that make any meal look elegant.  See here.

For dessert, what is better than a pumpkin pie? I don’t think the Libby’s recipe can be improved on. But I like using a fresh pumpkin for my pie. It was difficult to find a sugar pumpkin this year because farmers told me that with all the rain we got this summer, pumpkins and squash harvests were poor. Due to a poor growing season, pumpkin supplies were lower than usual this fall. So when I found a sugar pumpkin, it was quite pricey.

But fresh or canned pumpkin pie to me is a crucial part of my Thanksgiving menu. Still there are so many other squash or pumpkin desserts to choose from such as squash ice cream or sorbet (see here) and other interesting pumpkin or squash desserts to consider.  See here.

And of course, if I have pumpkin or big squash seeds, I will toast the seeds to eat as a snack.  See here.

I am amazed at the diversity of foods that can be prepared from the squash. Not too many other vegetables seem as versatile. And I am grateful that we in North America were blessed by this bounty and that the original settlers of this great country introduced this vegetable to future generations.

Fun is in the planning as well as in the serving. So if I have stimulated thoughts of a more creative Thanksgiving feast, please let TheGardenLady readers know what new recipe or favorite squash recipe you served- your recipe would be appreciated so we, too, can try it.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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