The Milkweed Diaries

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On food you can't buy at the grocery store

Baby butternut squash

Lately I've been thinking about the things I get to eat that I would never experience if I didn't garden.

Here's an example:

The afternoon before our first fall frost was expected, I went out and harvested the rest of the butternut squash, ripe and unripe.

I had read somewhere that winter squash could be eaten unripe, prepared as you would summer squash, so I sliced up the green butternuts and drizzled them with a little olive oil, sprinkled on salt and pepper and a little shredded parmesan cheese on top, and baked them. Worth giving it a whirl, I figured.

HOLY SHIITAKE* that squash was good. Better than summer squash. Possibly better than mature butternut. Green, salty, firm, and creamy. Really, really tasty. CF and my friend Pooma and I ate them with eyelid-fluttering, moan-uttering food ecstacy.

And if the taste weren't enough: they're so darn cute. I don't think you can tell from the photo how adorable these little squashitos were -- the smallest were about the length of my pinky finger and the largest about the size of my fist.

Tiny, unripe butternut squash are not something that you ever even see at farmers markets, much less at the grocery store. (Though I have vowed to change that: expect them around October 2010 at the Red Wing Farm booth at the West Asheville Tailgate Market.)

Baby butternuts are--like squash blossoms, green tomatoes, garlic scapes, beet thinnings, and other leftovers, by-products, and side notes of the garden--delightful foods mostly enjoyed by people who are growing vegetables for themselves.

There is a "waste not want not" spirit to eating things like beet thinnings, garlic scapes, and unripe winter squash -- but eating each of these garden extra-credit items is a delicacy in its own right. It's nice to savor little rewards like baby butternuts at the end of a long, hard-working season of growing your own food.

*With gratitude to Jonathan Safran Foer, genius author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, source of one of my favorite insults: "Succotash my Balzac, dip shiitake!" If that were the only sentence Foer had ever written, I would love him. But he is the author not only of searingly original and heartbreakingly beautiful fiction but of the new nonfiction book Eating Animals, about . . .FOOD, food traditions, and the ethics of food! More specifically: about meat, eating meat, and the meat industry. I can't wait to read it.


Aimee said...

Today I was scrounging around in the wasteland that used to be my garden, and I found and pulled about twenty-five adorable tiny, fat little carrots, about the size of elongated marbles. I don't know if they are a volunteer second crop, or some that I missed at the first harvest that got stunted by the weeds, but they are so cute! And sweet! All twenty five are hardly enough to make a salad, but I'm going to make one anyway.

Travis S. Childs said...

I just read an article from his book: Eating Animals. Great stuff! I love your blog! Check out my blog at

Milkweed said...

Thanks Aimee and Travis....happy eating!