bring me a squash in the wintertime

Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea that summer squash and winter squash come from the same family. They’re so different in flavor and texture. And they’re especially different in the responses they elicit from us.

When you invite summer squash into your garden, they come at you tender and exuberant and unrelenting as a two-year-old. Don’t think too hard, just do something! Fritters. Frittata. A quick sauté. Mixed grill. Chopped fine and marinated. A play date with pesto.  Zucchini bread, anyone? You don’t really have the time to imagine which of several potential flavor combinations might work best, and that’s OK, because there is always another harvest around the corner. Last summer I went away for a couple of days in the heat of squash season. I made a quick sweep of squash hills before leaving but somehow this managed to happen in my absence…(The smallest ones pictured here are about the size of my fist.)

Meanwhile, their hard-shelled cousins swell slowly in the back of the garden until the first frost warning. Compared to the yellow crooknecks and green scallops that keep me busy through July and August, the harvest of butternuts and acorns is meager indeed. It’s also finite. Which may explain why I tend to be so miserly with them… they are the jewel of my pantry, one of the few unadulterated homegrown ingredients that is available during the dark months.

Yesterday baked a couple of acorn squash in a curry-like concoction that included the first “harvest” from my windowsill garden—a few leaves from the kaffir lime tree.

These were the last of the precious acorns, but I guess I shouldn’t be too sad about that. While summer squash bless you all at once, these guys sustain us in a different way. And of course, I have seeds set aside for every variety… what seems like an ending is only the quiet part of the cycle.

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