Winter squash is the hard-skinned variety that contains large seeds. The fall and winter months are the peak season for this vegetable.
Winter squash comes in many shapes, sizes, and varieties. Some of the more well-known squashes are:
A smaller variety with ridged skin and color ranging from a beige or buff to orange to dark green. It is one of the most widely available and has sweet and smooth-tasting flesh with a somewhat stringy texture.
This is a square and stocky variety with a turban-shaped top that becomes bigger as the squash matures. It is green in color with orange flesh that is somewhat dry and dense with a taste that is similar to sweet potatoes with a nutty flavor, as well.
A very good all-purpose squash with a soft beige color, wide bottom and thick, narrow neck. The neck is solid flesh while the wider bottom contains the seed cavity. When cooked, the flesh is bright orange, firm, moist, and has a creamy texture.
This is a very large squash with extremely hard skin. They have an irregular shape with tapered ends and blue-gray skin. The flesh is very moist and dense and is good for pie-making.
A smaller variety, kabocha ranges in color from orange to green and is rough-skinned with very dense flesh. The flavor of this squash is rich and sweet when cooked.
This variety ranges in size from quite small to very large, the smaller sizes containing sweet, firm flesh. It has a round shape and orange color and is popular for making Jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween.
An oblong-shaped variety with a thin, hard shell and golden yellow skin. The flesh is very fibrous, resembling spaghetti when cooked, with a sweet and mild taste. The larger this squash becomes, the thicker the fibrous strands of the flesh will be.
When selecting, look for those that are solid and do not give when pressed hard. The stems should be firm, thick and full.
When choosing butternut, look for those with a good-sized neck and a smaller bottom. This will give you more for your money as the neck is where the solid flesh is and it will make it easier to cut it up for cooking.
Avoid any squash that has soft spots or shows any bruising or damage.
Storing and Handling
Store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Usually, deterioration will first appear around the seed cavity area. Check the squash often and if you see any bad spots or it starts to feel soft or mushy, you have stored the squash too long.
Wash thoroughly under cool running water before cutting. Carefully cut in half and remove the seeds.
Bake: Place squash halves cut-side down in a pan with some water and bake at 400°F for approximately 30 minutes until soft and tender.
Steam: Carefully peel squash and cut into chunks. Place in a steamer basket in a pan of boiling water and cover. Steam squash for approximately 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Baked: This vegetable is a flavorful side dish when baked with butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. Another option, for a less sweet dish, is to bake it with olive oil and herbs.
Stuffed Squash: The halves can be stuffed with other vegetables or meat or a combination of both vegetables and meat and then baked until tender and cooked through.
Pasta Dish: Substitute baked spaghetti squash for regular pasta. After cooking, simply take a fork and pull the squash away from the shell. It will come out in strands similar to pasta. Toss with a little olive oil, your favorite pasta sauce and fresh grated cheese.
Seasonings and Foods to use with Winter squash: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, chicken, couscous, garlic, honey, lamb, maple syrup, olive oil, onion, rosemary, sage, thyme