– by Bob Thompson –
One of the first signs of fall on the Peninsula is the appearance of winter squash at local farm stands and markets. Following on summer varieties like zucchini, patty pans and spaghetti squash, we now see bins filled with beautiful, rugged, multi-coloured winter squashes like acorns, sweet mamas, blue hubbard, butternut, buttercup, rouge di vif, delicata – and of course, pumpkins. Peninsula farmers grow a lot of squash and they grow it well.
The First Peoples of North and South America had been cultivating a diversity of squash for millennia when the first Europeans arrived. According to the Smithsonian Institute, the word “squash” comes from the Narragansett (northeastern U.S.) word “askutasquash” meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” Europeans were reportedly not so keen on squash when they first arrived. These new settlers soon discovered that adopting local foods was a good idea if you planned on surviving the frigid winters. Pumpkins are part of the pilgrim Thanksgiving lore. The first pumpkin pie, however, was not the tidy whip-cream topped pastry of today, but a baked, hollowed-out pumpkin stuffed with apples, sugars, spices and more. Spoon anyone?
Several years ago, Bob Maxwell, a Central Saanich grower and former chair of the Peninsula Agricultural Commission, came up with the idea of having a festival to celebrate our abundance of squash. In order to kick-start this idea, the Peninsula County Market is hosting a “Festival of Squash” this fall, featuring squash du jour recipes, how to make pumpkin pie from scratch (the non-pilgrim variety), samplings of butternut soup by Dale Carter of Breadstuffs Bakery, pumpkin carving competitions and more. Come on out and see Maxwell’s squash pyramid, a work of art in progress! Steve Duck, who organized the Sidney Sip and Savour last March, is working on another comfort food winter feast in partnership with Saanich Peninsula Flavour Trails – a Community Squash Supper: “This long table event will feature an all-squash menu for everyone who would like to meet their neighbours and celebrate our foods.”
The final market of the season is Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend (October 11th). Yellow Point Cranberries will be at the final two markets so you can add fresh, Island-grown cranberries to your Thanksgiving feast – along with that pumpkin pie from scratch!