Delicata squash is a pleasantly sweet, orange-fleshed winter squash in the Cucurbita family vegetables. It is distinguished from other winter squash members in having a long cylindrical shape and delicate cream/copper skin with dark forest-green vertical stripes. Skin is thin and edible, unlike in other winter squash varieties.
Botanical name: Cucurbita pepo.
Delicata squash is also known as the peanut squash, sweet-potato squash, etc.
|Delicata squash. Courtesy: Dyogi|
Delicata are winter squash and can be harvested after fully grown and stored for several months unlike the summer squashes like zucchini, which only have a short shelf life.
Delicata requires optimum warm soil temperature (70 degrees F) to germinate. Seedling done during early spring, usually when there is no longer a danger of frost. This squash needs a well-drained soil with organic matter.
Just like other winter squash varieties, delicata also is monoecious, bears separate male and female flowers. The fruit appears after about 70 days after the seedling and ready for harvest at 90 to 100 days. The fruit is, cylindrical with grooved skin, rounded ends and cream, or yellow color with green stripes running along its length. Skin is thin and edible.
Harvesting is done when the leaves begin to dry and stem turn brown and hard. The fruits are left in the sun to cure for 1-2 weeks before storing in a cool, dry place. It measures about 4-6 inches in length and 2-3 inches across, weighing about 1-1.5 pounds.
On the inside, delicata flesh is orange yellow with central hollow space filled with large, flat seeds, like pumpkin. Flesh is firm, sweet, and deep yellow.
Sweet Dumpling delicata variety is a slightly flattened.
Sugar Loaf is very sweet and oval shaped.
Honey Boat is boat shaped, and has a very sweet flavor.
Delicata is low-calorie winter squash. 3.5 oz (100 g) of raw squash holds 34 calories, almost the same as for acorn squash (40 cal/100g).
Besides, it carries no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is a good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
Delicata squash is a gluten-free food items. It can be a good substitute for gluten-sensitive (celiac disease) people.
Delicata 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, pigment compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
Fresh Delicata squash holds relatively more 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 the absorption of iron.
It provides 24 µg or 6% of RDA per 3.5 oz of folates. Folate is a necessary element for cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately during early pregnancy, it may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn.
Like other winter varieties, Delicata squash fruit also has less sodium (3 mg/100 g) but good amounts of potassium (350 mg/100 g), an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart-friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering the pressing effects of sodium.
Further, Delicata squash carries modest levels of other B-complex groups of vitamins like thiamin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and minerals like selenium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||% of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.13 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||1.5 g||4%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.188 mg||4%|
Winter or hard squash is grown in the warm season and can be stored for some months (through the winter).
Delicata squash is available from October to January in the farmer's markets. Buy fresh, average size fruits with dry and intact stems. Avoid those with a broken stem, surface blemish, damage, cuts/punctured, etc.
At home, whole delicata keep for 2 to 4 months or more if stored in a cool dry place.
Delicata squash cut sections, however, should be used in the cooking early. For extended use (up to 1-2 days only), place them inside a plastic wrap in the refrigerator, set at high relative humidity.
Delicata squash is a popular winter vegetable in the U.S and Canada. It is best suited for baking, roasting, steaming, boiling, and sautéing.
Unlike other hard skin winter squash, the thin skin of Delicata squash is easy to slice. Its skin is also edible when cooked and does not need to be peeled before consumption.
The squash holds its shape well through cooking, making it an excellent choice for stuffing and baking.
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.
|Suffed delicata. Courtesy: Meal Makeover Moms.|
Here are some serving tips:
Enjoy squash gratin with complementing vegetables, or sausage.
Mashed/pureed delicata is a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes.
Delicata makes a delicious creamy soup.
Delicata squash kernels can be eaten as a snack. Simply toast the seeds in the oven and enjoy!
Allergic reactions to delicata squash are rare. Pregnant women and infants can safely enjoy it. (Medical disclaimer).
<<-Also read Spaghetti squash nutrition facts.
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Garden Mastery Tips- WSU Clark County Extension.
Watch your garden grow- University of Illinois Extension (PDF).