Enjoy This Mild, Refreshing Botanical Fruit in Wilmington From Late Summer to Fall

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Have you noticed? I have. The mornings are beginning to get a bit cooler, the sun is setting on us earlier, and I find myself thinking about what soups I want to try. Our mild winters mean that summer might be wrapping up, but the growing season will continue for several more months. So, while I’m still savoring the tomato sandwiches, muscadine grapes, and peaches of late summer, I’m also looking forward to the upcoming bounty of autumn.

pumpkins and gourds

Pumpkins, squash, and gourds are members of the vine crops called cucurbits. Photo contributed by Feast Down East.

Growing up in eastern North Carolina I knew our summer squash, particularly zucchini and yellow crookneck, quite well. It wasn’t until I started visiting local farmers markets over the past few years that I learned how much I love winter squash, though. Butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squash are all winter squash that we will soon be able to find at our local markets.

grain bowl with butternut squash

Roasted butternut squash in a grain bowl. Photo contributed by Morgan King.

Butternut squash is slightly sweet and a bit nutty. When roasted you can add it to pasta or rice dishes, casseroles, or salads. You can also mash butternut squash or craft a creamy soup. Delicata squash is known as the super sweet squash! Some say it has a “sweet as honey” taste. This squash gets its name from its delicate skin that is easily cut, tender, and edible. Delicata squash is great roasted, in soups, or stuffed like little boats filled with vegetables, grains, or meats. Spaghetti squash is a bit more unique. When cooked, the inside can be shredded into long, thin strands similar to angel hair noodles. It is a mild squash that takes on the flavor of seasonings and sauces quite easily. Cut it in half lengthwise, roast it, then scrape the squash with a fork to create the spaghetti-like texture.

As the season continues to change we’ll also find a lot of fresh greens like kale, cabbage, Bok choy and arugula, in addition to kohlrabi, pumpkins, and other varieties of squash. I encourage you to visit local farmers markets and get a feel for the seasonality of food for our area. Farmers are eager to answer questions about flavor and cooking techniques, and so I am. I would love to hear about seasonal recipes you’ve tried.

Morgan King is the Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension –  New Hanover County Center. The office is located at the Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive, and is free and open daily 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Reach her at morgan_king@ncsu.edu or 910-798-7660.