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Don’t Forget Your Winter “Vegetables”

Tomato basil soup made with fresh ingredients. Our version of this popular comfort food is a great way to celebrate National Tomato and Squash Month.  Photo courtesy Sriram Bala.

Tomato basil soup made with fresh ingredients. Our version of this popular comfort food is a great way to celebrate National Tomato and Squash Month. Photo courtesy Sriram Bala.

December is National Tomato and Winter Squash Month, a time to celebrate two very versatile “vegetables” that contain a wealth of flavors and nutrients.

You may find this hard to believe, but at one point tomatoes (once called “love apples”) were considered poisonous and grown solely for their ornamental value.  Today tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable in America. While technically a fruit, they are considered a vegetable for culinary purposes and used in many dishes from countries and cultures around the world.

And not only do they taste good, but they’re good for you as well. Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C, potassium, fiber and vitamin A.

There are also plenty of reasons to fall in love with winter squash – they are versatile, nutrient-dense, and just plain delicious–but one of our favorite things about them is their shelf life. Just store them in a cool, dry place (don’t refrigerate!) and they can stay tasty for 1-3 months.

The winter squash family is diverse in size, shape and color. The most well-known varieties are acorn and butternut (both making frequent appearances at your local farmers market). Lesser-known are spaghetti, kabocha and delicata squash. But include anyone of them into a recipe that calls for winter squash and they’ll work just fine.

To honor these two seasonal “veggies,” try some of our favorite healthy recipes that make the most their flavors and textures:

Have a favorite recipe of your own? Share it with us in the comment section or send us a twitpic @USDA_AMS and let us know what you’re doing to celebrate National Tomato and Winter Squash Month.

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