Buttercup squash is a popular variety of winter squash in the Cucurbita maxima (Pumpkin) subfamily.
Buttercups typically have thick, dark-green skin with light stripes and a blockier shape than kabocha. Inside, deep yellow to orange meat is pleasantly sweet.
Buttercups have a protruding lighter gray-green (glaucous) "button" surrounded by a circular scar at the blossom end of the fruit.
Botanical name: Cucurbita maxima (Buttercup type).
Buttercup is a monoecious annual trailing vine, spreading on the ground, just like field pumpkins. It grows best in fertile, well-drained soil.
In similar to other winter squash varieties, it is planted in the spring after the last frost, grows all summer, and is harvested when mature in early autumn before the first frost.
Buttercup features dense, starchy, grainy, orange-yellow flesh. Its flavor and texture are often described as a reminiscence of sweet potatoes.
Inside, the central hollow cavity is filled with pumpkin-like, numerous, large, flat seeds. They weigh about 2 to 4 pounds.
In general, buttercup fruit is sufficiently mature to be removed from the vine at 45 days after flowering and when the entire foliage becomes senesced, and the stem turns corky, brown, and hard.
After the harvest, most farmers cure by simply holding the squash at room temperature at about 70 deg F for 2-3 weeks before transfer to a cool, dry place such as the basement or garage for long-term storage.
Some of the popular buttercup squash varieties grown in the U.S are:
'Bonbon'- It is a medium duration, green color, large size buttercup.
'Burgess'- On the other hand, is a short duration crop but medium-sized squash.
Buttercup has a similar nutrition profile as kabocha squash. It is a low-calorie winter squash variety that holds just 34 calories per 3.5 oz (100 g).
It is also an excellent source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Besides, it carries no saturated fats or cholesterol.
Buttercup squash is a gluten-free food item. It can be a good substitute for gluten-sensitive (celiac disease) people.
Buttercup squash is a powerhouse of carotenoids and vitamin-A, provides about 1370 IU per 3.5 oz (100 g) and 820 μg of β-carotene. Vitamin A is an important antioxidant that helps in cell growth and mucosal repair, fighting cancer, and for good vision.
Together with vitamin-A, these poly-phenolic pigment compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in cancers, aging, and various inflammatory disease conditions.
Fresh Buttercup squash holds relatively higher amounts of vitamin C (20% of RDA /3.5 oz), pyridoxine, and thiamin than pumpkin. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis in bones, cartilage, and blood vessels, and aids in iron absorption.
It is also a good source of folates, provides 24 µg or 6% of RDA per 3.5 oz. Folate is a cofactor involved in cell division and DNA synthesis. It helps prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn when taken during early pregnancy in expectant mothers.
Buttercup is low sodium (3 mg/100 g) winter squash. On the contrary, it carries ample amounts of potassium (350 mg/100 g), an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart-friendly electrolyte, which helps in decreasing blood pressure and heart rate by countering the pressing effects of sodium.
Moreover, it carries good amounts of other B-complex groups of vitamins like pyridoxine, thiamin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and minerals like copper, selenium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percent of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.13 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||1.5 g||4%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.188 mg||4%|
In the U.S, it is available from fall to mid-winter months in the farmer's markets.
Avoid those produce with blemished/soft/rot stem, damaged, cuts/punctured, etc.
Buttercup has a thick, hard rind. It can be stored for up to six months in a cool dry place.
Cut sections, however, should be used in the cooking early. If you choose to keep it extended use (up to 1-2 days only), then place it inside a cellophane wrap in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity.
Buttercup squash is one of the popular winter vegetables in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico. It can be substituted for butternut, kabocha, or pumpkin in similarly cooked recipes.
Its dense, starchy, grainy, orange-yellow flesh closely resembles that of sweet potatoes.
Buttercups are known for their dry-textured flesh, which holds their shape in whole baked, stuffed, stews and curries. It is best suited for baking, roasting, steaming, stuffing, boiling, and sautéing.
Its rind is tough, and although edible, some chefs prefer to peel it before consumption.
In a similar way as kabocha, it can also be sliced into rings or cubes and used in an endless array of recipes such as soups, salads, stews, gratins, sandwiches, and risotto.
|Baked buttercup. Courtesy: Sue Thompson.|
Here are some serving tips:
Buttercup is used in creamy soups in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
Raw grated buttercup is enjoyed in salads, which add a sweet crunch and burst of yellow-orange hue.
In a similar way akin to kabocha or delicata squash, buttercup is cut in halves, scoop off seeds, and stuff with bread, grains, bacon, meat, cheese, mushrooms, and leafy greens (spinach), and herbs, and bake in the oven.
Enjoy buttercup squash gratin with complementing vegetables, or sausage.
Mashed/pureed buttercup is a healthy alternative to mashed potato.
Baked and pureed or mashed, it can be used as a filling for empanadas, enchiladas, and ravioli, or used in desserts, pies, puddings, and bread.
Buttercup squash kernels can be eaten as a snack. Simply toast them in the oven and enjoy!
Allergic reactions to buttercup squash are rare. Pregnant women and infants can safely consume it. (Medical disclaimer).
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Kabocha and Buttercup Squash for Western Oregon Gardens- Oregon State University Extension Service.
Watch your garden grow- University of Illinois Extension (PDF).