Pepitas, Squash Bees, and The Power of Small Things

Linda here, writing to you this chilly, December morning.

Several people asked me about squash this week. What a surprise! –  as squash is  often a bit under-appreciated.

I adore squash. It is rare in that every part of the plant can be eaten – leaves, shoots, flowers (both the male and female flowers), and its seeds.

 

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Pumpkin Seeds (hulled) roasted with chiltepin

Let’s spend a moment with the Squash Bee. We think of squash as growing in the garden, that is, a domesticated plant. And it is. But Sophie D. Coe, in America’s First Cuisines reminds us that they were (as were so many of our not domesticated foods) WILD. She writes: “Their original distribution in the wild can be traced by the ranges of various species of bees of the genus Peponapis, whose sole source of nectar and pollen are the squashes, and specific species of squashes for specific species of bees at that.”

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Squash Bees – from a poster at a squash stand.

There have often been times in our shared human history (and present!) where food is scarce. People planned ahead for times of hunger. In terms of squash, it was prepared by cutting in into strips and dried for use later.

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This print was made by Jean Bales (1946-2004) and it titled Cushaw Melons: Pumpkin Harvest and Drying the Pumpkin (1980).

Most of you have favorite squash recipes that you turn to for you Holiday Tables. I want to remind you to not throw away the seeds when you are preparing your squash.

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A squash growing through the fence.

Before we get into the recipe maybe we better spend a moment on How to “get into” the squash. Think squash like the one growing on the fence can be tricky to cut open with a knife. A friend from Mexico showed me a simple trick that has changed my squash-culinary-life.

It is this: Use gravity.

Meaning: Drop the darned thing on the ground until it cracks open, then scoop out the seeds and save for the garden and for the recipe below. Then you can get your knif into the rind and cut for roasting or steaming of what have you.

Today’s recipe: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) with chiltepin. 

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The key to this VERY tasty treat, is to roast on VERY low heat. I use heat around 175 (under 200 degrees for sure).

I put a handful of pumpkin seeds (hulled or not) on a baking sheet in a preheated oven.

Add a tablespoon of Braggs Liquid Aminos and make sure that the seeds are coated with and spread them out evenly on the sheet.

I sprinkle half of the pan with dried chiltepin – and the other half leave for those who may not like such heat.

Every oven is different, but mine take about 15 minutes to roast. While they are in the oven, check them once or twice moving them around with a utensil to keep them from sticking.

When they are dry (and not sticky) take them out and let them cool.

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Here are a few other squash adventures that I have had. Please let me know what you make with your squash!

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Scramble squash blossoms into your eggs …. they are delicious!!!

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Empanadas baking …

Make empanadas with squash filling sometime – they can be sweet or savory! The rustic oven you see above lends a nice smoky flavor to the empanadas – but they are fabulous in any kind of oven. img_1486

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An embroidery project I made as an Ode to this generous plant

 

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Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Pepitas, Squash Bees, and The Power of Small Things

  1. Carol Cribbet-Bell

    I loved this writing on squash. This plant is so prolific in the garden that it is often easy to overlook some of it’s unique features. I love squash blossoms prepared a la the Illinois farmstead. Dip the blossoms in a beaten egg mixture, roll in crushed soda crackers, and sizzle in a frying pan of butter. Probably not too nutritious but oh so yummy .

  2. What a joy to see wild and cultural ecology woven around this lovely edible! Thank you for taking the systems approach to pleasurable cucurbit cuisine!

  3. Liz Garigan

    This is great! I love the inspirational photos, too delicious to pass up. I now will just drop the squash , thank you!

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