Ayote gets my vote
I want everyone to see this squash. In fact, I want everyone to taste this squash.
It's from Finca Pura Vida, a certified organic farm in Fayetteville, TX which sells goods at the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market on Saturdays. The little girl's name is Giselle. When I began taking pictures of this amazing squash, she hopped up right next to it and started drinking her hot chocolate. I couldn't have asked for a cuter model to show the sheer size of that squash.
I always assume that smaller produce is better. It's usually better, yes? I'm thinking of those tiny grapes on the vine, the sweetest ones. And the smaller pieces of okra, which are more tender. When I saw this gigantic squash, my first thought was, "Why so big?"
I don't know about y'all, but sometimes when I talk to farmers I get overwhelmed with the amount of information. Especially when I first started talking to farmers, I found that my lack of reference made it difficult to understand many aspects of farming, or even the products of farming. It's a little better now. However, the only things I caught when I asked about the squash was the following information:
- Very, very old.
- Squash is called ayote, and is from somewhere in Central America.
- Stays on the vine for six months.
- Good for you.
- You can fry, roast, or make into a soup.
- Better than butternut squash.
I bought a big ol' slab of it, and put it in my fridge, with the standard tinge of apprehensiveness whenever I looked at it. It's so exciting to cook something new, but it's rather a bummer when it doesn't turn out properly. Of course, even if it doesn't turn out properly, you must eat it. But it is clearly more satisfying to eat something that has turned out "well," "surprisingly well," "quite good," or "yummy in my tummy."
I decided to roast it in the oven with a bit of water, which is what I normally do for butternut squash. It didn't work so well. The skin texture is different, and there is more exposed squash that gets kind of dry from the heat. I covered it with foil at the last minute, which seemed to help. Then I mashed it up (sans skin) with some butter and salt and pepper, and served it with some sausages and beet greens.
Verdict? Yummy in my tummy. It had a much richer, denser flavor than butternut squash. I found myself wanting to know more about this ayote squash. I vaguely remembered someone at the Finca Pura Vida stand telling me the best way to prepare it, but I couldn't remember. Don't even bother googling it -- you won't find much information. I wrote an email to Gayla Lyons, who I am assuming is the farmer, to find out more.
She wrote that ayote is from the Indians of Central America, and that her husband's family has been planting it for over 400 years. Wow. The squash stays on the vine for 6 months, during which time it becomes very mineral-rich. In Costa Rica, doctors tell you to eat it if you are sick. Gayla likes to make cream of soup with it. I'll have to ask her about that next time I see her. And this time, I'll take notes.
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