Although called “winter squash,” the season of these squash varieties runs from late summer to mid-winter.
Winter squash have thick, tough shells that protect the sweet, rich flesh inside which makes them excellent storage vegetables. No matter what variety of winter squash or pumpkin you choose, always pick squash that feels heavy for their size. Cooking the squash properly will help to bring out its best flavor and texture.
Let’s take a look at a few types…
The sweetest winter squash; has a thick, bright orange, moist flesh with very few seeds. This squash is a pear shape with a thin, pale tan skin that is easy to peel. Butternut squash is versatile; it sautés quickly and is especially delicious when roasted. It mashes and purees smoothly, with no strands or fibrous bits, which makes it perfect for a smooth, creamy soup.
Acorn squash are round, with even groves around the entire squash and a moist, sweet, tender flesh. The skin is mostly dark green, with occasional splotches of orange and yellow and the flesh is a yellowish pumpkin orange. Perfect for roasting, baking, steaming, mashing, and sautéing, these flavorful squash are quite versatile, and the smaller ones can simply be cut in half, seeds removed, and roasted with a little butter and maple syrup for a sweet side dish. One of my favorite ways to eat acorn squash is stuffed and baked!
Spaghetti squash is all about the texture. After cooking the flesh pulls apart into thick, slightly crisp, noodle-like strands (hence the name). Many people serve it with tomato sauce just like it were, in fact, spaghetti. There are other delicious ways to serve this squash too. Try simply roasting it and adding butter and salt, or a pesto sauce.
Hubbard squash can be some of the largest winter squash. Because of their size, hubbards are often sold in seeded pre-cut chunks. They are slightly tear-shaped with dark green to pale grayish blue skins and have a sweet flesh with a clear pumpkin flavor. They are at their best when roasted; try seasoning them with rosemary and black pepper. Or roast and mash them along with a little butter and warm spices like cumin, nutmeg, or cinnamon.
Sugar Pie and Other Sweet Pumpkins
Yes, pumpkins are a winter squash. Field pumpkins, those used for jack o’ lanterns, have dry, flavorless flesh. They can be used in cooking, but are really best left for carving and decoration. Sugar and other smaller, sweet pumpkins make for great eating and can be used very much like acorn squash. The smaller ones can be hollowed out, roasted until tender, and filled with savory custards or small portions of soup for a fun dinner party treat- my “go to” Halloween dinner is a soup or stew served in a pumpkin… enjoy the soup and the pumpkin too! Festive and delicious!
So go ahead, step out of your dinner rut(and comfort zone) and enjoy some delicious in-season squash! Stay posted for more winter(fall) squash recipes to help you along the way!