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Farm Fresh: Sweet Dumpling squash a tidy bundle of yummy carotene

Thursday, November 18, 1999

Tested by Betsy Kline, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Squash. People love it or hate it. But how can you hate a little green-and-cream-colored orb called a Sweet Dumpling?

This tiny squash -- they often weigh in at less than a pound -- is true to its name: It's so sweet that it needs no seasoning, unless you prefer a shake of salt and pepper. Butter? Who needs it? This little gem is buttery by itself.

One small squash is a perfect 2-serving size. And it's a snap in the microwave.

We like to serve it as is, in the skin, as a side dish with chicken or fish. The flesh is a bright orange. Just take a spoon and dig in. Or scoop it out and mash it with a little salt and pepper. It doesn't get any simpler than this.

Nutritionally, it's a bundle of vitamin C, a range of B vitamins and beta carotene. It's also popular as an ornamental, grouped with other tiny squash, gourds and pumpkins. We usually find them plentiful in markets in late fall, then they disappear. Stock up -- they keep for 3 to 4 months in a cool, dry place.

Sweet Dumpling Squash

1 Sweet Dumpling squash
Salt and pepper, to taste

Microwave: The squash can be microwaved whole. Just pierce the skin with a fork a few times, put it on a paper towel in the microwave and zap for 6 to 10 minutes on high. Once cooked, slice and remove seeds, taking care because it will be extremely hot.

Or slice in half top to bottom, scoop out seeds and place cut sides down in a microwave-safe dish with about a 1/2-inch of water. Depending on the size, it might take 5 to 8 minutes on High. Test with a fork. It should be tender but not mushy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Conventional oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake whole or sliced in half, cut sides down on a cookie sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until tests tender with a fork.

Variation: For those with an insatiable sweet tooth, serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar and chopped pecans.

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