With so many varieties of Winter Squash in abundance at this time of year, it can be hard to decide which one to take home. It is very worth getting off the beaten path of the most commonly known Butternut and Acorn Squashes to try the delicious Delicata, Kabocha, and many other types we grow. Savory or sweet, squash is very versatile for fall and winter cooking needs, and winter squash hot out of the oven is one of the best comfort foods to warm up with. This guide will provide tips and tricks for picking the right squash for your recipe.
If you are not sure what your favorite kinds are yet, we recommend having a tasting with your friends. Choose a selection of winter squash to taste. Then you can halve them, put cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 until soft to the tines of a fork. Spooning the seeds out after they bake is very easy. Then cut each person a piece of each type and talk about it over dinner. Dress simply with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper so the flavors of each are easy to taste. We do this many times each fall and it is good clean fun.
Read on for…
- How to Store Winter Squash
- Variety Descriptions with Photos
- Recipes to Try – click the links in the descriptions!
Quality Control and Storage Tips
It’s ok for your squash to be bumpy! Minor surface blemishes won’t affect the quality of the squash. Squash can get scrapes and such when growing which heal over. Squash with soft spots, holes, or fresh/unhealed gouges should be eaten right away and not stored – just cut away any soft spots and use the rest. If you have ordered in bulk and are keeping a bunch of squash, it helps to check them periodically for the start of any soft spots, and to use those squash then if you find them.
Winter Squash, a tropical crop with origins in Mesoamerica, doesn’t like cold, despite its wintery name. It stores best at about 55 degrees. Below 50 degrees will cause chilling damage and reduce its storage life, so warmer than 55 is better if that is all you have. The old stories say that farmers stored their butternuts under their beds, as farmhouse bedrooms stayed pretty cool, right around 55 degrees. You can likely find a creative spot in your household where they will be happy.
Don’t scrub your squash until right before use as that could scrape the surface and introduce germs to spoil the squash more quickly. Do wash them just before cooking to get off any dirt, and especially if you are going to eat the skins (which are all edible).
Preparing Squash and Pumpkins – Tricks for your treats
A few tricks can make preparing Winter Squash much easier!
- Use a large chef’s knife, not a serrated knife or one that is too small. You can knock the stem off with a few whacks with the dull side of your knife.
- If you want to peel for a recipe, do it with either a knife or vegetable peeler, depending on the shape of the squash, thickness of skin, and how well you are able to grip it.
- If the squash has a rounded bottom that won’t sit straight on your cutting board, trim off the stem end or slice in half once so that it rests flat first before peeling or chopping.
- If the squash is too dense to cut through, bake it for 10 minutes at 375 or microwave briefly to let if soften before trying to cut it again.
- Don’t forget to save the Seeds for Roasting!
- If you need the baked flesh for a recipe, baking it and scooping it out of the skins when soft is easier than peeling and chopping when raw.
- You can de-seed squash after baking a little faster than when raw, so just slice in half and bake with the seeds inside, then scoop them out.
This popular winter squash type was originally developed in Massachusetts in the 1940′s! From a cross between the giant flavorful Hubbard squash and the Gooseneck squash, came what is now known as Butternut, raised by a chap named Charles Leggett in Stow, Massachusetts.
It is delicious roasted, in soups, mashed, in lasagna… the possibilities are endless. Put the halves face down in a baking pan with half an inch of water, or cut all the flesh into inch-size cubes and toss with olive oil and herbs. Blend the best of fall with this creamy Apple and Butternut Bisque, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, or Golden Autumn Soup. This is an excellent storage squash – typically the longest lasting of all of our squashes.
The Oh She Glows Butternut Mac ‘n Cheeze is excellent too. I don’t see the need for peeling the squash in this recipe though, just bake in the skin and scoop out the flesh after for an easier life.
Oblong, with pale yellow skin and green stripes, Delicata is a delicious early winter squash. It doesn’t store as long as other heartier varieties, so eat this one while you can! Its thin skin is edible– simply slice the whole squash in half, de-seed, and then slice the halves into half-moons. Roast, saute or steam and dress with salt, pepper, and herbs and you’ll be surprised at how flavorful Delicata is. Delicata is fun to roast because it makes such a great little boat and the skins hold everything together. Try it stuffed with goat cheese, walnuts, and rice.
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, this variety is sweet and starchy with very thick flesh that can get almost flaky when baked. The rind is edible, although it gets a bit tough when baked. It is popular in soups, tempura, and sometimes desserts. Try making pumpkin pie with it! We grow two varieties: traditional kabocha is dark green, while sunshine kabocha is a bright orange. The flesh is similar to Buttercup but a little more dry (which is why it holds up so well fried ).
This oblong, sunny yellow squash seems like a miracle among vegetables. By slicing it open raw, you wouldn’t know that its texture when cooked will completely change into delicious, noodle-y strands. After baking, simply run your fork horizontally across the squash’s interior flesh and it will split into the “spaghetti” that it’s named after.
Acorn squash are especially fun to stuff because of their size and edible skin. Their nutty flavor pairs well with quinoa or other hearty grains, and their creamy texture mixes well in a quesadilla. For an especially sweet treat, bake with butter and maple syrup. Also a great pie squash! Try baking stuffed with chopped apples, cinnamon and a little butter and honey or maple syrup.
This squat, dark green squash with a little cap on the blossom end has thick, creamy orange insides. The texture of the flesh, when cooked, is melty without much of the soft fibers or strings you find in other squash types. You can use it in the same ways as the Kabochas, which are very similar.
These are culinary pumpkins that have been selected and developed for the best taste for cooking uses. Making pumpkin pie from scratch is well worth the reward! Roasted and pureed with cinnamon, cloves, and cream, this doesn’t taste like anything out of a can. For a savory alternative, try Afghan Sweet Pumpkin Kadu with spices and garlic yogurt sauce!
Another great squash for roasting, stuffing, or soups. These are little with golden flesh, and are perfectly sized to make pretty single servings of baked and stuffed halves of squash. Their striations and cuteness make them great for decorating too – with the perk that you can eat them later.
Honeynut look like mini butternuts. They have a similar texture but higher sugar content, perfect for dessert! Try adding a Honeynut to a mixed squash soup or baked into a pie along with pie pumpkins or acorn squash. Or dare to serve it baked hot and topped with a bit of vanilla or maple ice cream…
Big and bright, jack o’ lantern pumpkins are the ones you want to carve and display. Be sure to save the large seeds for toasting! They’re the perfect snack to accompany an afternoon of pumpkin fun.
Jackolantern pumpkin flesh is watery – these guys are bred for size, not flavor. It is edible, but not very tasty.
Although not recommended for eating, decorative gourds can add great color to a fall or winter landscape. Use them to dress your table, peek off of window ledges, on the front stoop, in door wreaths, and other displays. Kids love to paint them and put on googly eyes!
A Couple More Recipes
These are with Butternut, but you can use any other squash too.
And lest baking should be forgotten, as you can make all kinds of baked goods with winter squash puree, here is a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. And then some pie…
Any Winter Squash Pie Recipe
Winter Squash Pie… it’s not just for pumpkins!
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell
2 cups cooked winter squash ( choose any kind or mix of kinds you like)
2 cups whole or lowfat milk
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
Place 1 cup milk in a blender and add the squash, a little at a time, blending til smooth. Add the eggs and spices and blend. Add the remaining 1 cup milk, brown sugar and honey. Mix until well blended. Pour into the unbaked pie crust and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes. Cool. Serve with whipped cream!
Thanks for reading!
We hope you love these squashes and that this guide helps you to enjoy them even more!
Please let us know in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or favorite ways that you like to cook them that others might appreciate trying.