Seeing a variety of winter squash at the markets is a clear indication that Autumn is here. The array of shapes and sizes bring back comforting, childhood memories of changing leaves that would blanket the neighborhoods and rolling hills. However, while the vibrant red, orange and yellow Autumn leaves don’t last long, the presence of the winter squash last through winter. They have absorbed the sun’s energy through the summer season and continue to provide warmth and comfort through colder winter season. In the practice of Ayurveda, the stored energy is considered to be a warm ojas, which is essential energy that is responsible for vitality, strength, health and wellness.
Winter squash are sweet in flavor and range from a moderate to medium-heavy flavor essence. Similar to Ayurveda, Chinese medicine considers squash to be a warm sweet vegetable (although technically they are fruit.) They are high in complex carbohydrates, which makes their sweetness safe for diabetics.
Winter squash are hearty yet also help drain excess fluids due to being a mild diuretic. They also have a good amount of fiber, which promotes regularity and maintenance of a healthy digestive tract by supporting healthy gut bacteria. Winter squash is loaded with vitamin A (deep orange color = high in carotenes) which is important for healthy eyesight. The carotenes combined with the sweetness make them a good blood and liver tonic. Winter squash also contains a good amount of potassium (decreases blood pressure) and vitamin C (boosts immune function) as well as other key nutrients that promote healthy bones, skin and hair and reduce inflammation.
They can be used in sweet or savory dishes, but I prefer the latter. My personal favorites are kabocha and butternut.