Sunday, October 30, 2016

Praise the Pumpkins and Celebrate Squash!

The School District of the Chathams' Farm-to-School program declared October Squash Month, and Lafayette School has found many ways over the past thirty-one days to learn about this tasty edible gourd. Let's get the celebration started with a squash rap hit from the LMC Vegetable Files, written by Library Aide Mrs. Massam, produced and directed by Library Media Specialist Mrs. Cifrodella, and brilliantly performed by fourth grade teacher Mr. Cleary and members of the Broadcast Club. It has a gourd beat and it's easy to dance to... Squash!

Mad Props for an Ancient Crop: Squash gets its name from the Native American word askutasquash, which loosely means eaten raw or uncooked. Squash is one of the world's oldest known food crops, grown for thousands of years, producing thousands and thousands of nutritious meals! Gardening in the footsteps of the Narragansett people who bestowed the vegetable with its catchy name, Mrs. Cifrodella and her family harvested a bumper crop of squash from their community garden plot this summer.
Zucchini from the Cifrodella Garden.

A Versatile Veggie: Ancestor gardeners hollowed out gourds to form tools and scoops used to savor supper or to slurp soup. Lafayette Spanish instructor Señora Leonardis baked a tasty modern treat using a big green squash from the summer garden. She shares, "Mi vecino me dio una calabaza grande y verde. Hice muchos panes de calabaza." A few years ago, a Canadian gardener harvested a squash that weighed almost 1500 pounds! Muy, muy grande!

Señora Leonardis Baked Squashy Bread!

In English, Squash is Delicious; en Español, la Calabaza es Delicioso! We know it's impolite to play with our food, but reading about playful vegetables is highly recommended! In the English-language picture book How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann (P FRE) and in a companion book written in Spanish, Vegetal Como Eres: Alimentos con Sentimientos, also by Saxton Freymann (FL 460 FRE), text and photographs explore emotions with clever vegetable carvings.

So Many Colors, So Many Shapes! Green, tan, white, orange... long, round, oval, crooked neck.... Mrs. Kraemer led art classes as they created squash paintings to decorate the cafeteria-- and this blog post!

Mrs. Kraemer sketches squash with an art class.

Gourds for All Seasons, Squash for All Seasons: Summer squash are fast-maturing with thin rinds and squishy seeds. They make great summer treats: just pick them, wash them, and serve them up raw. They cannot be stored for a long time. Winter squash are larger and slow-maturing, with thick rinds and hard seeds-- so hard, in fact, that cooking is needed. They can be stored for months on end.
Squash on the Menu: Squash not only look good and taste delicious, they are healthful and nutritious. Squash are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, dietary fiber, vitamins A. B, and C... all sorts of good stuff! Throughout the month of October, everyone at Lafayette had the opportunity to sample squash dishes on the cafeteria menu. Here, Mr. Cleary savors a serving of zucchini.

Fifth Grade Teacher Mrs. Collett Delivers an Important Public Service Announcement about Cafeteria Squash!

Lafayette Friends Celebrate Squash Month in the Cafeteria.

From the Lafayette Cafeteria to the Kitchen Table:
 Library Aide Mrs. LaChance is a certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach with lots of good-for-your mind and body ideas! Here, she shares a squash recipe that we can prepare and enjoy at home: 

Simplest Roasted Squash

1 large or 2 small “delicata” squash (they are oblong-shaped, pale yellow with green stripes).
2 T olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and dry squash well (no need to peel it!).
Slice off ends and discard. Carefully slice the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Place the flat side down on a cutting board, and slice the squash into 1/2” half-moon-shaped slices.

Place slices in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Arrange slices on the pan so that they do not overlap. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip them over and roast for 5-10 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Enjoy!

Simply Delicious: Simplest Roasted Squash!

Vote for Squash! In this presidential election season, it's interesting to note that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew squash in their gardens. It's also interesting to read The First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robbin Gourley (712 GOU), an illustrated description of how First Lady Michelle Obama created the White House Kitchen Garden as part of her campaign to promote healthy eating.

Dinner from the Garden: The Lafayette School Environmental Club, led by Mrs. Worden and Mrs. Coleman, prepared spaghetti squash to accompany a pizza meal made with fresh garden ingredients.

Environmental Club Members Enjoy Spaghetti Squash and Homegrown Pizza.
Of course, our celebration of Squash Month would not be complete without a shout out and a shriek for the spookiest squash of the season. Every October, carved pumpkins decorate porches and doorsteps in Chatham and across the United States. The inspiration for creating jack-o'-lanterns originated in Ireland, where other vegetables-- like turnips and potatoes-- were carved and decorated. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the easy-to-carve pumpkin... and the rest is Halloween history!

From Seed to Jack-o'-Lantern: The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons (635 GIB) describes how pumpkins come in different shapes and sizes, how they grow, and their and cultural significance and uses. This nonfiction book includes instructions for carving a pumpkin, drying the seeds, and many pumpkin facts. Speaking of facts, we'd like to extend an especially squashy thank you to K-12 Science Supervisor Kristen Crawford, who provided us with gourd facts and information this month!

And so gourd friends, by golly by gosh, let's praise all the pumpkins and celebrate squash-- a veggie enjoyed by our founding fathers and mothers, by Native Americans... and so many others!

Happy Squash Month and Happy Halloween!