Despite its name, winter squash is in season now! It's called winter squash because unlike its summer cousin, winter squash has a thick rind that allows it to keep for long periods of time. Winter squash harvested in late summer and early fall can last through to winter.
What else makes winter squash different from summer squash?
Have you ever had a zucchini or crookneck squash that tasted (and smelled!) especially squash-y? It probably had large seeds and thick skin too. Summer squash and winter squash are from the same family of vegetables; the difference is that summer squash tastes best when harvested young and winter squash tastes best when harvested at full maturity. That's why a zucchini or crookneck squash left to grow too large isn't as tasty as one that's picked when it's still small.
How do you choose a good winter squash?
Winter squash is pretty easy to pick--it doesn't bruise or blemish easily. Your squash should feel heavy and it shouldn't have any soft spots.
How is winter squash stored?
Store it in a cool, dry place--don't refrigerate it! At 50 degrees, some varieties of winter squash can last up to 6 months. Since most of us don't have root cellars underneath our houses, that's probably not a possibility. When kept on the countertop or in your pantry, you'll want to use most varieties of winter squash within 2-3 months.
Why should you eat winter squash?
It's super good for you! It's high in fiber and contains healthy doses of Vitamins A, C, and B6, along with potassium and antioxidants. It's low in calories too, which is always nice, right?
What kinds of winter squash are there?
So many! Here are the ones I found at my local farmers market:
Ambercup // A relative of the acorn squash. Its sweet flesh is great in soups or oven-roasted.
Delicata // A sweet winter squash with edible rind.
Sweet Dumpling // Another relative of the acorn squash. It's the perfect size and shape for stuffing, although it's also great cut into wedges or rings and roasted, like in this recipe.
Acorn // Good in soup, but definitely best roasted or stuffed. Rind is edible, but can be tough.
Spaghetti Squash // After roasting, scrape the flesh out of the spaghetti squash and serve it like pasta. This recipe from Once Upon a Cutting Board is one of my favorite ways to use it.
Buttercup // This sweet squash is perfect roasted, pureed, or added to soups.
Butternut // Butternut squash has a tough rind, so it's best to remove it (although it is edible!). It can be used as a low-calorie replacement for sweet potatoes in many recipes. It's incredibly versatile and tastes great roasted, pureed, as soup, and even in sandwiches.
How do you prepare winter squash?
Some winter squash should be peeled (butternut and spaghetti are two examples), while others have edible skin (like delicata and sweet dumpling). Squash with inedible skin can either be peeled before cooking or after. All squash should have pulp and seeds removed before cooking.
While winter squash can be steamed or even sauteed, I prefer to roast it. You can cut it in half, into cubes, into rings or into wedges and bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes. It's great with maple syrup, rosemary, cinnamon, maple syrup, or smoky chipotle peppers.
What's your favorite thing to do with winter squash?