A gardener’s relationship with squash emulates a classic summer romantic fling: We cry out in delight when we see that first zucchini or butternut, but then when the harvest pile grows high on our kitchen countertops, we grow weary and move on to a more alluring crop.
But don’t prematurely “squash” your relationship with this underrated vegetable—adhere to the same tried-and-true relationship advice when romance grows flat: Spice things up with something new. By seeking out new and creative ways to preserve your summer and winter squash varietals, all of a sudden, what was old and stale becomes exciting again. Here are seven fun tips to get you started.
1. Dehydrate as Soup Thickener
When you start seeing a pile of any crop on your countertop, pulling out the dehydrator can be a fast, easy solution to preserving it—and squash is no exception. “When our zucchini and other summer squash [are] in abundance, I get out our dehydrator,” says Erica Roth, a homesteader in rural Wisconsin. Simply slice the summer squashes thinly and lay them out to dry in your preferred dehydrator. Once dry, Roth powders the chips to use as a soup thickener.
2. Twirl Noodles
Vegetable noodles are a great alternative to pasta for someone on a gluten-free or other carb-limiting diet. A variety of gadgets on the market, such as a spiral slicer, make it easy to cut winter and summer squash into noodle-like strands. Noodles made out of winter squash freeze well—cook the noodles 2 to 3 minutes after defrosting—but it’s best to use summer squash noodles fresh.
3. Refrigerator Pickles
Pickles aren’t limited to cucumbers. Any vegetable—including squash—can be preserved through pickling.
“We love to make pickles out of our Tromboncino, a fun summer squash that grows long and thin with practically no seeds,” says Victoria Redhed Miller, author of Pure Poultry (New Society Publishers, 2013) and off-the-grid gardener in the foothills of Washington’s Olympic Mountains. “I’m always surprised by how crisp the texture is of these simple pickles.”
Pack thin squash slices and onions, if you’d like, into a jar. Boil your favorite spices in vinegar, and pour over the vegetables. Miller cans her pickles, as she lives off grid with minimal electricity, but they can also readily be stored in the refrigerator. Use canned pickles within one year and refrigerator pickles within six weeks.
4. Purée and Freeze
When you start harvesting winter squash, you might end up with some that are nicked or missing stems, and therefore won’t be good candidates for long-term storage. This might add up to more than you can eat at once, so preserve them by freezing a purée.
Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds out. Roast in a 350-degree-F oven until soft, usually about 45 minutes. Remove squash from the oven, and allow to cool. Scoop out the inside flesh, and mash it with a fork or purée in a food processor until smooth.
Measure and pack purée into freezer bags for future use. We find that packing in 6-cup quantities is a good size for making soup. One average-sized butternut squash will make about six cups purée.
5. Cube for Stir-Fries
Both summer and winter squash can but cubed and frozen for future stir-fries and casseroles you’ll make throughout the winter. Peel and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Blanch the cubes and place on ice to quickly cool, then freeze. Carrie Gould, a gardener and home-preserver in southwestern New York likes to package the squash cubes in a vacuum sealer, which takes out the air and makes the squash last longer.
6. Dehydrate for Chips
Trade unhealthy, processed chips from the supermarket for some homespun, healthier ones made from zucchini and summer squash. Slice the squash thinly using a mandolin, leaving the skin on. Then season, using this method from Douglas Stevenson, author of The Farm Then and Now (New Society Publishers, 2014) and a homesteader in rural Tennessee: First, dip the slices in tamari, then dredge in a mixture of nutritional yeast and garlic powder. Dehydrate and eat as a chip, or break apart as a quick soup ingredient.
7. Bake and Freeze
If you have a chest freezer and extra storage space, make an extra batch of your favorite zucchini bread or other squash-based pastry and freeze for winter use. While you can shred zucchini and defrost and use in future baking, the texture will change as it loses its water content and, depending on your recipe, could affect the end result. Baking up a double batch is an efficient use of time, and this way, you’ll have an easy snack on hand for a last-minute potluck or gathering.
Try these squash recipes from HobbyFarms.com:
- Dark-Chocolate Zucchini Cake
- Butternut and Goat Cheese Empanadas
- Baked, Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Linwell Farms’ Spaghetti Squash
- Garden Vegetable Soup with Basil Pesto