by Jules White
I’ve spent the past five autumns in New England, but the reds and oranges along the tree line seem exceptionally bright this year, and I’ve been wondering whether isolation has sharpened my senses. Fall, in all its brilliant color, has brought a hot, steaming soup of mixed emotion to my doorstep, since shorter days and cooler weather makes it increasingly difficult to gather safely. Yet, here we are, sharing food as a virtual community, while the arrival of winter squash and root vegetables to local harvest baskets allows us to generate sweetness and warmth in our own kitchens.
I used to say the sweet potato was my favorite fall vegetable, but I’ve recently developed an attachment to butternut squash. My coworkers at the farmer’s market have picked up on our affair, poking fun at me whenever I bring a new squash back to our tent—they always catch me, no matter how quickly I stash it in my backpack. I still adore roasted sweet potatoes for their silky soft texture, but the squash’s slightly firmer composition means it holds its shape when carved into noodles, for example, and I find that its sweetness when roasted is more subtle; perfect for a blended soup, heavy with aromatics, or served plain as a side dish. Squash also holds more water than its starchy counterpart, and can be mashed and folded into biscuits and cakes as a binding agent, or stirred into a creamy pasta sauce. Both of these versatile veggies can be used in either sweet or savory dishes, and they each contain their fair share of vitamins and nutritional benefits, so I won’t make this into a contest. I only mean to suggest that if you appreciate the sweet potato for its honeyed flavor and bright autumnal color, you will probably fall just as in love with butternut squash.
If you’re looking for a place to start, try out this recipe for butternut squash and black bean tacos, topped with a citrusy kale slaw. And of course, if you want to make this recipe but don’t have a spare butternut squash lying around, a sweet potato works just as well.
Jules is a TerraCorps Youth Education and Community Engagement Coordinator, serving with Grow Food Northampton in 2020 and 2021.