New-found foods in Africa, continued...
Meet gem squash: Though I have just learned that this squash can be found in southern parts of the US and Mexico, I have never encountered it. But they are all the rage in the bottom half of Africa... At the size of a softball, these little squash are anything but soft. Because they are harder than a baseball, they are put into a pot whole, stems and all, to boil for almost an hour. They are done when they crack or pop. Lesson learned: boil with a lid on!
Gem squash, next to a pair of scissors for scale
Below is our cooked squash being gutted. The seeds are taken out, then the meat of the squash is scraped clean. The empty shell of the squash holds its shape well, as it stays quite hard even after all of the cooking. (You can see a deflated one in our pot- but that was a bad one that collapsed in on itself- not typical.)
Because the cooked shell keeps its shape so well, these cut little squash cups are often filled with other foods and then served as a pretty side dish. After we gutted ours, we mixed it with salt, pepper and butter to get the true taste (very good). But below is a fancier picture of one we were recently served in a restaurant. It was filled with a creamy couscous and herbs- yum!