Did You Know?
In ancient times, squashes were used to make containers and utensils because of their hard shells and large sizes. Dried pumpkins or gourds are still used to make authentic Indian musical instruments like the sitar and tanpura. Pumpkins are an invariable part of Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations. Some varieties are used to make attractive centerpieces, lampshades, bird-feeders, bowls, facial masks, candle molds, etc.The botanical name of hubbard squash is Cucurbita maxima, and it is a type of winter squash. Apart from field pumpkins, hubbard is the largest winter squash. No other crop has so many cultivated forms as the species C. Maxima has. It is consumed in almost all parts of the world. It is actually a fruit by botanical standards, but it's consumed more like a vegetable than a fruit. The orange-colored pulp and greenish seeds that are packed with nutrients are used in various dishes.
Winter squash requires some sunlight and warm weather to grow. Its hard and firm outer shell helps increase its shelf life and facilitates transportation. Hubbards are not perfectly round, but are slightly tear-drop shaped (plump in the middle and tapered at the neck). Usually, they are green, gray, or bluish-gray in color, and have bumpy skin. The golden hubbard squash comes with a bright orange skin. You can store these varieties up to 5-6 months through winter by just storing them in a cool and dry place. Hubbards are mildly sweet in flavor, but have a more dense flesh than other varieties (sugar pumpkin is the exception). Being quite large in size (can weigh up to 50-60 pounds), they are often sold in pieces. They are relatively inexpensive, and hence, are used as a substitute of pumpkins in all types of pies and soups. You can consume them in various ways, like dried, roasted, baked, boiled, and mashed. Although all varieties leave a sweet aftertaste, the golden one may leave a slightly bitter aftertaste.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, here is what baked hubbard squash (without salt) offers:
|Serving Size: 100 g|
|Total lipid (fat)||0.62 g|
|Total Dietary Fiber||4.9 g|
|Total Sugars||4.9 g|
|Vitamin C||9.5 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.172 mg|
|Vitamin A, RAE||335 µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||6705 IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.20 mg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||1.6 µg|
|Total saturated fatty acids||0.128 g|
|Total monounsaturated fatty acids||0.046 g|
|Total polyunsaturated fatty acids||0.260 g|
✦ This vegetable is rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Potassium promotes dilation of arteries, which results in increased blood flow. Moreover, the vegetable does not contain fat, cholesterol, and sodium. So, it is a heart-healthy food.
✦ Most people avoid this vegetable assuming it to be full of starch. But researches have shown that starch obtained from different foods is different in nature. It is true that 90% of winter squash calories come from its carbs, but many of these carbs come from polysaccharides present in the cell walls. For example, pectins. They contain chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan and exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties.
✦ It is a very good source of omega-3s, alpha carotene, and beta carotene, which decrease the chances of suffering from inflammatory diseases or help reduce the discomfort due to inflammation. These nutrients help strengthen your immune system too. A bowl of hot hubbard squash soup can help alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu.
✦ This vegetable is one of the top three sources of lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin―the carotenoids that help enhance the function of the immune system and prevent various diseases.
✦ As it provides dietary fiber, it is considered as a natural appetite suppressant. Apart from making it a "filling food", the fiber also helps improve the function of the digestive system.
✦ It is rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. One cup hubbard squash can provide about one-third of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.
✦ The cucurbitacin molecules (glycoside molecules) present in winter squash exhibit antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
✦ As winter squash varieties contain special antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, scientists are of the opinion that they can be useful in treating and preventing cancer. More research is required to confirm the use.
✦ The compound d-chiro-inositol (like vitamin B) found in this vegetable helps regulate blood sugar levels. As hubbard is a good source of five B-complex vitamins (B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate), it helps regulate insulin-related activities.
✦ Studies show that certain nutrients present in this vegetable help control the cholesterol levels. They do it by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. Thus, the vegetable helps maintain heart health.
✦ Sun-dried seeds can be used for garnishing, or you may add them to cereals and breads. You may enjoy roasted seeds as a snack, but remember that long heating time and very high temperature can destroy some of the important nutrients. The seeds are rich in heart-healthy fats like linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the monounsaturated fatty acid). They also provide protein (which is made up of 18 amino acids), fiber, a number of vitamins like vitamin A and folate, and various minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron.
Nutritionists suggest that you should always buy certified organic winter squash. The soils used for growing other regular varieties may contain contaminants like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), because farmers consider squash as an inter-crop, growing of which promotes remediation of contaminated soils.