What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Controversy and Winter Squash
Felicia FriesemaThe Hollywood Farmers Market as seen from the LA Film School's parking lot.
It's been a scary week for farmers markets in Los Angeles. The stalemate between the LA Film School and the Hollywood Farmers Market is testing the fortitude of local communities, who may or may not realize that the threats to one of the region's most prominent markets may present some nasty ripples for other smaller, local markets. Parking access is the public reason for the brouhaha, though the access issue remains somewhat cloudy as the lot in question isn't as inaccessible as the school claims (the roof lot can be reached by circling up through the building's westside garage, where school parking attendants currently charge market patrons $7 a pop to park). Regardless of the he-said she-said media flotsam around the issue, the crops still grow, and for at least the next month, thanks to some quick and fancy footwork by Councilmember Eric Garcetti, the Hollywood Farmers Market goes on. So in tribute to the market's (hopeful) staying power, we highlight a seasonal symbol of a long shelf life - the myriad winter squash currently in season. Kabocha, Kuri, Banana, Acorn, Delicata, Butternut, Trombonicino, et al have thick rinds, sweet flesh, and more edible uses than "notable LA Film School alumni and productions." Ouch.
Regardless of the he-said she-said media flotsam around the issue, the crops still grow, and for at least the next month, thanks to some quick and fancy footwork by Councilmember Eric Garcetti, the Hollywood Farmers Market goes on. So in tribute to the market's (hopeful) staying power, we highlight a seasonal symbol of a long shelf life: the myriad winter squash currently in season. Kabocha, kuri, banana, acorn, delicata, butternut, trombonicino, et. al. have thick rinds, sweet flesh, and more edible uses than there are "notable LA Film School alumni and productions." Ouch.
Felicia FriesemaBanana squash at Underwood Family Farms
The largest of the winter squash requires its own market bag to carry home, assuming your vendor hasn't already taken the time to chop it up into more manageable portions. The banana squash, so named more for its flavor than its size or shape, has a fleshy Caucasian pink cast on the outside and bright orange flesh on the inside. Underwood Farms serves up their banana squash in pre-cut hunks, but if you're game to haul a whole one home, the South Central Farmers Cooperative will happily help you arrange your bag. Some of the larger specimens push the scale past eight pounds, but it's eight pounds of sweet and nearly tropical, finely textured flesh. Roast one portion, make up and freeze some soup with another, puree into a custardy pie, and then cube up the rest for a cozy vegetarian étouffée.
Felicia FriesemaRed Kuri squash at McGrath Family Farms
Two other winter squash often seen side by side at McGrath Family Farms are the kabocha and the red kuri. Both are on the compact side, weighing in at a couple of pounds each and both have super sweet and slightly nutty tasting flesh. Less dense than either the banana or the more common butternut, their flesh tends toward the juicy, so cook first before adding to soups and other dishes to keep things from getting waterlogged.
Felicia FriesemaRed Kabocha, center, nestled among other winter squash at Finley Organic Farms
In all cases, when selecting whole gourds, choose for exterior skin that is intact and uncut. The occasional blemish or scarring on the outside is normal. Just avoid obvious brown and soft spots that might indicate interior decay. A whole winter squash will rival some long life apples with their staying power, though they'll tend to get dryer, as the season continues well into late spring.
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