Fall and winter are famous for pumpkin season, but there are many other types of winter squashes that pop up in the produce section that your participants may be curious about. They may seem intimidating to some, so these tips may be helpful to share about the various types of squash and how to prepare them. Read on for more information or jump right to the recipes.
Winter squash are varieties of squash usually harvested in the fall. They differ from summer squash (like zucchini and yellow squash) because their rind has hardened, which makes them perfect as long-lasting produce. Even though they are categorized as winter squash, some varieties are available year-round at the supermarket. These vegetables contain a number of nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. They also contain carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, that give squash its bright colors. These pigments are precursors to vitamin A, meaning the body converts them to active forms of vitamin A.
Tips & Ideas to Share
There are many types of winter squash that vary in size, color, shape, and flavor. Here are some of the most common squashes that may be found in grocery stores.
Types of Winter Squash
Acorn Squash: As you might expect from its name, this squash resembles a large acorn. It has dark green skin with yellow flesh and when cooked, has a nutty, mildly buttery flavor. When cut and baked in halves, it is great for stuffing with its bowl-like shell.
Butternut Squash: This squash has a slim neck and bulb-shaped bottom along with thin pale tan skin and bright orange flesh. Butternut squash is one of the most popular types of winter squash with its sweet, slightly nutty flavor and is usually available year-round.
Delicata Squash: Small and oblong with thin yellow, dark green, and orange striped skin, this squash has a yellow flesh that is sweet, nutty, and corn-like. It is said its texture is similar to that of sweet potato.
Kabocha Squash (or Japanese Pumpkin): This squash is round and squat with a dark green, often bumpy/ridged skin. Its dark orange flesh tends to be denser than other types with a nutty, earthy, and sweet taste.
Pumpkin: Likely to be the most familiar squash in this list, pumpkins are known for their round shape and ribbed orange skin and orange flesh. The flavor is sweet and buttery and it's commonly used in soups and desserts.
Spaghetti Squash: This variety is cylindrical in shape with pale to bright yellow skin and yellow flesh. Once cooked, the flesh is stringy like noodles and the flavor is quite mild and not as sweet. It's often used as a pasta or noodle alternative.
Other Types: Some other, less common, varieties of winter squash that participants may come across include honeynut, carnival, buttercup, hubbard, sweet dumpling, and turban squash. All of these can be prepared similarly to the types listed above.
Tips for Getting Started
Choosing a Squash: When selecting a squash, choose one that feels heavy for its size, has no soft spots, is firm, and has a tan, dry stem. Canned or frozen winter squash may be available in some locations. You can check your State agency’s authorized food list since canned and frozen vegetables are not available in every State, U.S. Territory, or Indian Tribal Organization due to the flexibility they have in selecting foods for their WIC food packages.
Washing: First, start by washing your hands before preparing food. Then wash winter squash before preparing and eating. Try these 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables or these steps for washing winter squash: rinse with plain running water while scrubbing the outside with a clean brush, then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Peeling: The skin of all winter squashes is edible, but it can be tough to eat depending on the type of squash. For types that are harder to peel, you can peel the skin after cooking to make it easier. Easy to peel squashes include delicata, acorn, and butternut. Harder to peel squashes include kabocha, spaghetti, and pumpkin.
Want to save a preparation step? Skip peeling delicata or acorn squash since the skin is usually less tough. When steamed or roasted the skin becomes tender and easy to chew!
Cutting: Make sure to use a cutting board and a sharp, sturdy knife as it can be difficult to cut through winter squashes due to their tough rind. Cut the squash into halves and scrape out the seeds. From here, they can be cut further into chunks or slices depending on how they are to be cooked.
Tips for Cooking and Using
Oven: Place your squash on a baking tray and pop it in the oven. You can follow a recipe for the recommended temperature and time. Baked or roasted squash is great as a side on its own.
Steam: Add a steaming basket over a large pot with 1-2 inches boiling water, cover with a lid, and steam until tender.
Boil: Heat a large pot of water until boiling, add the squash, and then bring down to medium heat and stir until tender.
Mash or Puree: First peel and cook the squash (usually by steaming or boiling), then use a hand masher or blender to get the squash to your ideal consistency. Mashed squash is a great side dish and pureed squash is perfect for soups.
Save the Seeds! You are probably familiar with roasted pumpkin seeds, but did you know you can eat the seeds of any squash? This recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds can be adapted for other squash seeds.
Storage: Thick, tough skin and firm flesh of winter squash allows it to be stored for several months. Keep it in a cool, dry spot and it can last between 2-4 months. Cooked squash can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and although safe indefinitely, if frozen the quality is best to use within 3-4 months.
You can usually substitute any type of squash in recipes, with the exception of spaghetti squash due to its very fibrous nature.
Orange Honeyed Acorn Squash (available in Spanish)
Spicy Baked Squash (available in Spanish)
Squash Apple Casserole (available in Spanish)
Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash (available in Spanish)
Butternut Squash and Chile Pan-Fry (available in Spanish)
Butternut Squash with Black Beans (available in Spanish)
Curried Pumpkin Soup (available in Spanish)
Pumpkin Pancakes (available in Spanish)
Turkey Pumpkin Chili (available in Spanish)
Spaghetti Squash (available in Spanish)
Spaghetti Squash Pie (available in Spanish)
Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Parmesan (available in Spanish)
Autumn Squash Bisque with Ginger (available in Spanish)
Roasted Delicata Squash (available in Spanish)
Squash Soup (available in Spanish)
Stuffed Kabocha Squash (available in Spanish)