This year Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Farm to School Educator will be giving monthly updates on Farm to School programming in the region tied to the Harvest of the Month. Each month we’ll highlight the local food and farms’ involvement within the cafeteria and the classroom.

Come November, most if not all of the vegetables have been brought out of the fields and placed into storage for the winter. Some common storage crops in this area include a number of different winter squash varieties. Many people are familiar with butternut squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkins, but there are many other varieties grown locally such as delicata squash, red kuri squash, and blue hubbard squash. Since all winter squash belong to the same plant species, they all have certain similarities, but unique looks and tastes.

In the classroom this month we examined three different varieties of winter squash. We used all five of our senses to note the differences in their skin, flesh, seeds and tastes. We tasted the squash three different ways: raw, cooked and mashed. Learning about different vegetables each month means students get to see all of the different parts of the plant that we eat from the leaves to the fruit and even sometimes the flower.

AuSable Forks Elementary School students tasting – and loving – the raw delicata squash!

Saranac Elementary School students learn about different varieties of winter squash and the plant parts we eat from Emily Foppert, the Farm to School and Garden Coordinator for the Saranac Lake Central School District.

In the cafeteria we taste tested two different types of squash: delicata squash “smiles”and butternut squash purée. Delicata squash is the only variety of winter squash that you want to eat the skin and we had many students tasting it for the first time. Whenever tastings are done in the cafeteria we try to offer students the chance to vote on whether they liked it or not. In the three schools where we kept track of voting, over 60% of the students liked the delicata “smiles”!

Results from the Boquet Valley Mountain View Campus tasting. Students can vote on whether they like/love it, think it’s okay, or dislike it.

The Chateauguay Central School cafeterias sample locally grown roasted butternut squash as part of Harvest of the Month. Showing the recipe makes it easier for students to tell their parents about it and make it at home!

Each month we’ll be recapping the great work being done in our local schools, so check back in! Next up…Whole Grains.
For more information, visit http://essex.cce.cornell.edu/agriculture/farm-to-school

Written by: Meghan Brooks