Riverford Wicked Leeks

veg hero - squash

If you’ve been stumped by squash in the past, it’s time to look beyond the soup and get to know the potential of these tubby fellows. Their quirky looks alone are enough to get you inspired, from Crown Prince with its washed-blue skin and rich orange flesh, through to the extraordinary Turk’s Turban, which looks a bit like it got turned inside-out at some point. Once roasted in olive oil, their sweet, butter-smooth flesh contrasts irresistibly with the crunch of toasted nuts or seeds, and the sharpness of stilton or feta. Thrown together in a salad, this magic trio makes a surprisingly substantial autumn supper that the most ardent meat-lover would struggle to complain about. Arguably the most popular veggie dish at our Field Kitchen restaurant is a luscious Swiss chard, squash and blue cheese torte (find the recipe in our new cook book, Everyday & Sunday), or try the squash, chard and stilton pithivier recipe on our website. Further squash success stories can unfold in the making of velvety risottos, comforting curries and spiced tagines, and you can even make a pasta-like dish if you can get your hands on the frankly bizarre (but tasty) spaghetti squash, which does exactly what it says on the tin during cooking.

A member of the Cucurbit family along with cucumbers and melons, winter squash (which include pumpkins) are native to America where their ancestors grew wild as climbers. Many squash are at the northern limits of their growing range here in the UK, and we often only just get them to maturity before the first frost hits in October. They bruise easily so harvesting involves gently hand placing each one into straw-layered wooden crates. During Guy’s first squash harvest back in 1987, some young field workers whose hearts were not really in the job loaded the crop by tossing them into the crates. Suffice to say it did little to help the embryonic Riverford coffers, or Guy’s stress levels that year!

Unlike most veg (though technically they are a fruit), squash are happier in a snug kitchen than a fridge, so make the most of this by ordering our squash box and using them as a rustic decoration: perhaps piled together in a tumble of colour on a kitchen table, or cheerily dotted along a windowsill. Tasty and pretty – now that’s value for money!