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Winter squash tasting at the Farmers Market

By Jana Jones

Have you ever heard of kabocha squash? How about sweet dumpling squash? Or Turk’s Turban? Or acorn squash? Most of us have at least heard of spaghetti squash and butternut squash. There are several wonderful varieties of winter squash that so many of us have never tried because they are not commonly offered in the grocery store. If that is the case for you, let me tell you what you are missing out on!
Other than being incredibly beautiful, winter squash is packed full of cancer fighting nutrients including beta-carotene and carotenoids as well as a great source of vitamin A, C, potassium and dietary fiber. Their thick skin gives them the ability to be stored in a cool, dark place through the winter. The most common way to cook winter squash is to cut them in half, scrape out the seeds and bake, roast or steam them until the flesh is soft. You can enhance their sweetness with brown sugar or all-natural maple syrup, or highlight their savory taste by rubbing the flesh with cut garlic, brushing with olive oil and adding seasonings like rosemary, sage or thyme. Once cooked, they are great in recipes such as stuffed squash or added to stews or pureed into soups! Each variety has its own special qualities.
This Saturday at the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) you will have the opportunity to sample several varieties and diverse recipes of winter squash. (Pumpkins are also included in the winter squash category) We have three vendors offering samplings: Greiber Family Farm, Brown’s Farm, and Harbin Hill Farm. Come and sample soups, pies, and a variety of healthy, delicious side dishes. Sarah Ransom, our County Extension Consumer Science Agent, will also be at the market with a sampling table and recipes to hand out.
We still have a few tickets left for our First Annual Farm-to-Table Harvest Celebration Dinner. Just call 423-677-2222 to reserve your tickets or pick them up at the Johnson County Welcome Center. This will be a fabulous 4 course Mediterranean themed evening with live classical and folk music held at the Roan Valley Baptist Church Fellowship Hall on Saturday, September 23 at 6pm. Reservations for full tables of six or eight are still available. Tickets are $35.
I will leave you with one of my favorite winter squash recipes. You can use butternut squash, pumpkin, kabocha, acorn or any of the orange flesh winter squash for this recipe.
Honey Roasted winter squash with cranberries and feta cheese
1 large butternut squash, peeled + chopped (or equal amount of another winter squash)
a hearty drizzle of olive oil (approx 1-2 TBSP)
salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste
2 cups fresh cranberries
2-3 TBSP honey (or extra, to taste)
1/4 cup finely crumbled feta
ground cinnamon, to taste
fresh or dried parsley, to garnish, optional
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly drizzle or spritz a baking sheet with olive oil.
Add cubed squash to the sheet along with another drizzle of olive oil.
Sprinkle with a light layer of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, based on taste preference.
Roast at 400 F for 25 minutes on the center rack.
At the 25-minute mark, pull out the oven rack, and add your fresh cranberries to the roasting pan.
Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cranberries have started to soften and burst a bit, resembling really juicy craisins vs fresh firm cranberries.
Remove from oven and add a sprinkle of cinnamon (approx. 1/8-1/4 tsp depending on preference) along with feta and honey. I listed the honey measurements I used, but depending on whether you used fresh cranberries or dried, sweeten to taste.
Garnish with parsley for a burst of color and dig in while it’s hot!
The JCFM is located at the county courthouse parking lot across from the post office in downtown Mountain City. Open every Saturday from 9 til noon from May through October. We accept SNAP/EBT and currently have a program that doubles the dollars for fresh fruits and vegetables for our EBT customers. Follow us on Facebook to keep abreast of new items offered each week. Or visit us online at We welcome all to come enjoy live music, kids’ activities, sample recipes and all of the great items offered by our terrific farmers and vendors at every market!