Students from Jessie Rice’s first-grade class, with the help of some high school culinary arts students, turned a huge, homegrown winter squash into soup last week as part of the Montana Harvest of the Month Program. (Jamie Diehl)The bumper crop from the Ennis Schools garden shows just how easy it is to grow winter squash, which students turned into soup last week. (Ennis school photo)

Behemoth squash star of Nov. Harvest of the Month

Ennis elementary learns how to grow, prepare local ingredients

ENNIS—The 2018-2019 school year’s Harvest of the Month program kicked off earlier this month with the first of its monthly recipe experiments at Ennis Schools.

Elementary students, assisted by several high school Culinary Arts helpers, prepared an enormous Boston Marrow squash from the school garden, turning it from blindingly orange bulb that nearly outweighed some of the students into tasty Squish Squash Soup.

Culinary Arts and Family and Consumer Science teacher Jamie Diehl coordinates the Harvest of the Month program, a creation of Montana State University Extension in collaboration with the Office of Public Instruction, the Montana Team Nutrition Program and a USDA Farm to School grant.

Schools and administrators that register their programs receive monthly materials that focus on a seasonal crop that can be locally grown and prepared by students, plus a recipe to encourage student involvement in the foods they eat. November’s featured offering was the hearty winter squash, which comes in dozens of varieties, keeps well and can be used in a variety of dishes, from pasta and soups to pizzas and even mashed, potato-style.

Winter squash include the well-known acorn, butternut and spaghetti, and also more obscure breeds like kobucha, carnival and turban. The students of Jessie Rice’s first grade class used Boston Marrow, a large variety that originated on the east coast and has at least 200 years of documented cultivation history in the United States.

Winter squash is one of the “three sisters” along with corn and beans, all of which were early staples of Native American agricultural practices. There was a reason for that particular grouping, too.

For centuries, the Three Sisters growing method has helped with effective gardening practices in several ways. Corn stalks offer a support for climbing bean vines to climb, while the bean plants themselves return soil nutrients like nitrogen to the land, and low-growing squash leaves keep weeds to a minimum. 

They work well together from a nutrition perspective as well: eating corn, beans and squash also provides a nearly perfect protein with all nine important amino acids, something most often found in meat.   

Rice’s first-graders prepared Squish Squash Soup, allowing them both kitchen practice and offering a taste test for their parents, who attended parent-teacher conferences at the end of last week.


Squish Squash Soup

(Made by Mrs. Rice’s class)


1 cup diced onions

1 celery stalk, diced

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 cup apple cider

1 lb. diced winter squash

1 potato, diced

3 cups vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2/3 cup evaporated milk


- Directions -

Combine onions, celery, garlic and apple cider in a large soup pot. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add squash, potatoes, stock and herbs. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is cooked.

When done, puree soup with milk until smooth.  

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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