Guides/ Tips & Hints

A Guide to Winter Squash

Guide to Winter Squash

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.

Guide to Winter Squash

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?

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80 Comments

  • Reply
    Anele @ Success Along the Weigh
    September 11, 2012 at 7:53 am

    LOVE this! I’m bookmarking it for future reference. I haven’t done a ton with winter squashes so I’m looking forward to experimenting more than just the Tropical Butternut Squash Soup I made last month. I’m especially looking forward to spaghetti squash!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      I love winter squash because it reminds me of sweet potatoes, but with fewer calories. Do you ever make butternut squash fries? Amazing!

  • Reply
    Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell
    September 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I have never tried it before, but I don’t know why! I’ve only ever had squash from those orange blocks out of the freezer. If I love that and I DO, I’m positive I’d like it fresh roasted!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      You can freeze your own then too! If you roast or steam it, then puree it, you can stick it in a ziploc bag for future consumption. 🙂

  • Reply
    Meg @ Beard and Bonnet
    September 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

    This is awesome! I love winter squash and everything about it. I may have even used it as fall decor a time or two as well. It is so pretty! Great post:)

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Seriously, I didn’t even know winter squash was edible until very recently. Fall decor was the only way my mom ever used it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Cloggie
    September 11, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Trying to peel uncooked squash is asking for frustration and possibly cut fingers. Cut the squash in half, scoop it out and either steam it in the microwave or roast in the oven. If you get an unexpected bounty, do this and then cube the squash before freezing. Or send it all to me. I can never have too much squash.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Well, for a lot of recipes, you need to peel the squash first! But I agree, when possible, it’s definitely easier just to cook it first and scoop the flesh out.

  • Reply
    JulieD
    September 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I love this, Kiersten! My goal is to cook with spaghetti and butternut squash this fall! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jackie @ The Beeroness
    September 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I’m so ready for winter produce! It is over 90 degrees here today, a little hard to get into the fall spirit. I love this handy guide!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      It’s sad that when it’s in the 80s here, I’m all, “Oh! It feels like fall!”

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    September 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks for an informative post.
    I like to bake winter squash with potatoes and sour cream in a big pot. It comes out delicious.
    My granma make jam out of it. Tell you the truth, it’s not my favorite jam)

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      I’ve never heard of jam made with winter squash–I’m curious to try that!

  • Reply
    Sharon | Chinese Soup Pot
    September 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    The squash photo here is so pretty! I’ve heard about the spaghetti squash and have always wanted to try it, but I didn’t know how they looked like until I read your post!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      It is so good! Some recipes for it are definitely better than others, but the one I linked in the post is delicious. 🙂

  • Reply
    Brian @ A Thought For Food
    September 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I’m ready to dig into squash… Looking forward to cooking with all of them!

  • Reply
    Kim @ Raising The Barre
    September 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    This is great! I love squash- can’t wait to make stuffed acorn squash soon! I need to expand my horizons and try some of the other varieties though. Yum!

  • Reply
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen
    September 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I love it roasted or pureed into soups, I can’t wait to get back to eating all these delicious varieties.

  • Reply
    Mary Beth Elderton
    September 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I eat butternut squash raw in salads. I just cut chunks small enough to chew comfortably and throw them into the greens.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      I have never tried it raw! That’s definitely easier than cooking it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Emily
    September 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Spaghetti Squash is my favorite!

  • Reply
    Michelle @ Find Your Balance
    September 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    ooh just found your site, it’s so cute! I love ALL winter squash and giggle when the store clerks have no idea what it is or how to ring it up. There are so many varieties, y’know?

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Ha! Last year, I grabbed a squash without looking to see what it was and it was such a fiasco when I got to the checkout line. The cashier called over the manager and the manager had no idea what it was either, so he had to run to the produce section to find another. I’m sure the other people in line hated me. 😉

  • Reply
    Natalie
    September 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I’m so excited for squash season! I never venture much beyond butternut squash because I love it so much, but this year I’m determined to try other varieties. This guide will be very helpful! Thanks for linking to my spaghetti squash recipe too!!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      That is still my go-to spaghetti squash recipe! So many others are hit-or-miss, so whenever I get a spaghetti squash, I don’t want to take a risk and I just make your recipe. 😉

  • Reply
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.
    September 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    great tutorial!! love!

  • Reply
    Amber
    September 11, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Every Thanksgiving, I always make a fall harvest salad topped with roasted butternut squash! One of my favorites and always a big hit with the fam! Thanks for posting! I have not tried all of these, but plan to now!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      That sounds SO good! I bet it would be great with walnuts and dried cranberries too!

  • Reply
    Brenda Williams
    September 11, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    This is an excellent lesson. Thank you!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    September 12, 2012 at 3:13 am

    You’ll be surprised to know what Russian women do with veggies from their gardens)
    My granma’s recipe for squash jam is easy. You simmer 2 pounds of peeled and cubed squash with 2 pounds of sugar for 1,5 hours. After the squash is tender you mash it like you do with boiled potatoes. The jam is ready!
    But it’s pumpkin and orange jam that I like the most. I will post this recipe on my blog soon. It’s easy and delicious!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      It sounds very similar to what we call pumpkin butter–the only difference is that spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are added to that. I can’t wait to see your pumpkin & orange jam recipe!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    September 12, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Brilliant chart! You know I don’t think I’ve ever had the delicata.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      I’ve never even seen a delicata until moving to North Carolina. The first one we bought was very bitter for some reason, but I’m glad I gave it a second chance!

  • Reply
    shelly (cookies and cups)
    September 12, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I was JUST talking to a girlfriend about this the other day! Love this chart!!

  • Reply
    Carolyn
    September 12, 2012 at 10:58 am

    This is great! Pinned it.

  • Reply
    Diane {Created by Diane}
    September 12, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I love squash, what a great post. I use butternut squash in Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque and can eat spaghetti squash right out of the oven with a fork 🙂 I’ll have to give the ones that are new to me a try!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Using squash in a tomato bisque is a fabulous idea–I bet it adds a nice, silky texture!

  • Reply
    Sheila
    September 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    What a great post! We actually just had spaghetti squash for dinner last night.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      I’m having it for lunch tomorrow! 😀

  • Reply
    Valerie Goodness
    September 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I make Three Sisters stuffed squash with several of your winter squashes. The Haudenoshaunee are the most well known Native Americans who were proficient in growing squashes around mounds that also grew corn stalks that supported bean vines. Hence Three Sisters, corn beans and squash. My Three Sisters stuffed squash is baked with left over meat (Chicken, hamburger, or what ever) mixed into rice (left overs also) with corn, and beans and what ever cheese I happen to have in the fridge. Cream cheese, pepper jack, or cheddar. Before I stuff the squash I wash them, clean them out (saving seeds for roasted snacks later or for planting), then bake them empty for about 15 minutes with a little bit of butter. Then I stuff them, and bake them in a Pyrex baking dish for about an hour with foil covering them. DELISH

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      September 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      This sounds like a great meal idea–and with the addition of beans, it could easily be made vegetarian too. Thanks for sharing!

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