There are so many kinds of winter squash. They range in size, color, and shape, and can weigh anywhere between 2 to 100 pounds. Does it leave you wondering what to do with all of those oddly shaped squash? Hopefully some of them will end up on your table, so you can enjoy the benefits these vegetables offer.
About Winter Squash
Most winter squash is harvested in September or October, when they have turned a deep, solid color and the rind (or skin) is hard. During this time they are plentiful at grocery stores and farmers markets. Winter squash is generally cooked before being eaten, and the skin is not usually eaten, as it is with summer squash. Common types of winter squash include: Butternut, Acorn, Pumpkin, Buttercup, Turban, Hubbard, Sweet Dumpling and Spaghetti squash, just to name a few.
Squash are perfect for soups, stews, and one dish meals. They are also good baked or stuffed. Most winter squash can be interchanged in recipes, with the exception of spaghetti squash. Yellow-skinned, with lighter yellow, fibrous, stringy flesh, spaghetti squash has a mild flavor and can be used in place of pasta.
Clean winter squash in cool running water before cooking or cutting. Various methods are used to prepare winter squash such as microwaving, baking, steaming, and roasting. Thin skinned varieties can be peeled with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Many varieties require that you cut the winter squash in half. If the squash is too tough to cut, microwave or bake for a few minutes until it is soft enough to cut. Once you’ve opened it, scoop out the seeds and strings and discard, or set aside if you plan to roast the seeds.
Cooking & Storage
Bake winter squash by placing unpeeled pieces cut side down on a shallow baking dish for 30 minutes or longer in a 350°F oven; pierce with a fork to check for doneness. For additional ways to cook winter squash, see Fruits and Veggies More Matter’s Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Acorn Squash.
Cut squash should be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 week. You can freeze cooked squash to use later in main dishes, soups or baked goods. Pack in freezer bags or containers and use within a year. Whole winter squash can last up to 3 months, if stored properly, in a cool, dry place.
Best Nutritional Value
Although each variety of winter squash differs in its nutritional content, a cup of cooked, cubed winter squash provides about 80 calories and is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Try the following healthy, winter squash recipes; they are easy to serve anytime of the year.
Spicy Apple-Filled Squash
Recipe: EatFresh.org Photo: Michael Carian
- 1 large acorn squash (about 1 pound)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 large apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut squash into halves and scoop out the seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in 13x9-inch baking dish.
- Add water and bake 35-45 minutes or until fork-tender.
- While the squash is baking, cook the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until apple is crisp-tender.
- Cut each piece of squash in half and divide the apple mixture equally among squash wedges. Return squash to oven; bake 10 minutes more or until heated through and serve while hot.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 99, Fat: 2g, Carbohydrates: 21g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Protein: 1g, Sodium: 18mg. Serving size: 1 piece.
Creamy Squash Soup
Recipe: NDSU Extension Photo: Veronique
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 medium finely chopped onion
- 6 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 3 cups chicken broth (plus extra to adjust consistency if needed)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage (or to taste)
- 16-oz. light cream cheese
- In a large saucepan, sauté onions in butter until tender. Add squash, chicken broth, cayenne and black pepper, and sage. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
- Puree the squash mixture and cream cheese in a blender or food processor in batches until smooth.
- Return to saucepan and heat through. Do not allow to boil. If it needs thinning, add additional chicken broth until desired consistency is reached.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 250, Fat: 14g, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 5g, Sodium: 360mg. Makes 8 servings. Note: the recipe was analyzed using reduced-sodium chicken broth.
For additional information about winter squash, check out Michigan State University Extension’s Using, Storing, and Preserving Winter Squash fact sheet. See Utah State University Extension’s helpful, how-to video, How to Cook Winter Squash.
- Fruit and Veggies More Matters. Insider’s Viewpoint: What to do with Winter Squash
- Oregon State University Extension Service. Winter Squash Basics
- University of Illinois Extension. Watch Your Garden Grow: Winter Squash
- Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Winter Squash