Are Winter Squash Leaves Edible?
I enjoyed the Seattle sun last Wednesday at the Columbia City Farmers Market along with the delicious food from the stalls. I purchased a few fresh vegetables from various farmers and, like always, a bunch of winter squash leaves from a Hmong farmer’s stall. This time the squash leaves prompted me to cook and share with you a recipe from my Thai kitchen: how to cook winter squash leaves –Yod Namtao – ยอดน้ำเต้า.
Winter squash leaves are edible. In fact, all parts of squash family plants are edible, from leaves to stems, flowers, fruit, skin and seeds. The young leaves and stems are shown in the photos above and below. These edible greens become available when a farmer cuts back the leaves on a plant in order to encourage it to produce fewer but larger fruits. Winter squash leaves are popular in rustic-style cooking in Southeast Asia and they are great sources of fiber and other nutritional benefits.
Though they may feel a little rough to the touch, the young leaves from winter squash have amazing flavors when cooked. They have a spinach-like texture, but are richer and denser with a bite to it in flavor. Like any leafy green vegetable, you can stir-fry, steam or stew them. In my kitchen, I either blanch them in salted coconut milk or saute them with butter, then add water and chicken stock and cook them down until the leaves are softened but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Last year I made a winter melon leaves stew with dried fish and shallots using a Hmong farmer’s verbal recipe. It was similar to my Watermelon Rind Soup and made a delicious vegetable stew.
Winter squash leaves are only available in the summer and only at the Hmong farmers’ stalls. Because of this limitation, I never fail to purchase a bunch of winter squash leaves each visit to the market. Supporting the Hmong farmers also helps me to ensure that there will be a continuing supply due to the demand. When you get a chance, please pick up some winter squash leaves at a Seattle Farmer Markets near you and give them a try.
Winter Squash Leaves Boiled in Salted Coconut Milk
Yod Namtao Luak Kati
One bunch of winter squash leaves weighs about a pound. After removing all of the twine holding them together and the hard stems, the soft edible part weighs about six ounces; the rest goes into a compost. If I have time, I use a peeler to remove the rough skin on the stems then cook the stems down until they are soft, about 8 minutes.
There are many ways to prepare winter squash leaves, but blanching or boiling them in salted coconut milk produces my favorite quick and easy side dish. This same method can also be used with many other leafy green vegetables, which can then be served with Thai Chili Dip. You will be surprised how the flavor of winter squash leaves and leafy green vegetables are complimented by just a little coconut milk and salt.Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 5 minutes 6 ounces winter squash leaves (see preparation above) 1/4 cup coconut milk 1 cup water 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
Bring coconut milk, water and salt to a boil on medium-high heat. Then add the squash leaves, using tongs to turn them around to make sure they are all cooked in the liquid—like blanching the leaves in a coconut broth. Cook from 3 to 5 minutes until the greens reach your desired degree of tenderness. Serve with the broth as a side dish, or with warm jasmine rice as a main dish.© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen I Love Thai cooking Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
- ~Coconut Melon Smoothie Recipe~ (ilovethaicooking.wordpress.com)
- To learn more about American Winter Squash (whatscookingamerica.net)
- ~Thai Cooking with Coconut, What Is a Coconut?~ (ilovethaicooking.wordpress.com)
- Tips for Growing Winter Squash (homeandgardenideas.com)
- Pranee’s Nam Prik Ong Chili Dip (ilovethaicooking.wordpress.com)
- Pranee’s Nam Prik Kapi (youtube.com/ilovethaicooking)
- Pranee’s Tips on Kabocha Squash (ilovethaicooking.wordpress.com)
- Eating Seasonally: Winter Squash (operationinscape.wordpress.com)
- Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta and Basil, Served with Sautéed Tomatoes and Garlic (howtofood.net)