Add flavor and nutrition to your meals with this wintertime vegetable.
The end of summer does not have to mean the end of fresh vegetables. Winter may not be the best time to enjoy a crisp salad or a juicy tomato, but it is the perfect time to embrace the culinary delights of the winter squash.
What Is Winter Squash?
The term “winter squash” is a bit of a misnomer since winter squash is actually grown in the summer—but it is best harvested in late summer or early fall and enjoyed in the fall or winter. Winter squash earned the name because, like root vegetables, they are considered “good keepers” and can be stored for many months.
There are many varieties of winter squash and they are typically harvested in September or October prior to the first frost when they have developed a deep, solid color and a hard skin. Winter squash is an excellent source of nutrients including vitamin A, dietary fiber, beta carotene, and potassium.
Enjoying Winter Squash
The mounds of squash stacked in the grocery store may seem intimidating, but these vegetables are delicious and easy to prepare. Look for squash that feels heavy for its size and has a hard skin that is deep in color and free of blemishes.
Squash can be prepared in a variety of ways—in fact, it is nearly impossible to botch it. It is delicious roasted, baked, steamed, pureed, and sautéed. Enjoy it alone, in soups, or in a sautéed vegetable medley.
To prepare squash, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it face down in a shallow dish with a small amount of water and bake it for 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll be able to scoop the flesh out of the skin. If you are making squash puree, use a food processor or blender to blend the pulp until it is smooth. Squash puree keeps well in the freezer.
If your recipe calls for cubed squash, use a vegetable peeler or knife to carefully peel the squash. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and chop accordingly.
Choosing a Winter Squash
There are many varieties of winter squash. If you’re ready to add color, flavor, and nutrients to your winter plate, explore one of these varieties:
Acorn Squash: Acorn squash is a small, dark green squash with bright orange flesh. It is commonly stocked in most grocery stores and is popular for its sweet flavor. It is an excellent baking squash—simply slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. You may choose to top it with butter or any number of seasonings.
Butternut Squash: Butternut squash is a beige colored, long, bell-shaped squash. It has a dense, orange flesh that is often used for soups. Butternut squash has a sweet, nutty flavor and has become a regular addition to many classic autumn meals. It is commonly stocked in grocery stores. Because it is dense, butternut squash needs more cooking time than acorn squash. It is delicious pureed in soups or cubed and roasted.
Delicata Squash: Delicata squash is an heirloom variety sometimes referred to as peanut squash or Bohemian squash. It is a long, yellow squash with a creamy flesh that some compare to corn or sweet potatoes. This delicious squash is best baked and enjoyed in its most natural form, with very little additional seasoning.
Hubbard Squash: Hubbard squash is a large, irregularly shaped squash with a blue-gray skin. Its hard skin makes it an excellent “keeping” squash—it can be stored for up to six months. Hubbard squash has yellow flesh that needs a longer cooking time (about an hour). It is best used in pies.
Spaghetti Squash: Spaghetti squash is a small, yellow, watermelon-shaped squash with a mild, nutty flavor. When cooked, its flesh resembles pasta and it can be used in place of noodles. To prepare, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake until tender. It is delicious tossed with pasta sauce or as an addition to cold salads.
Winter squash is a low-fat treat packed with antioxidants and other nutrients. Get creative and enjoy this colorful addition to the table.
Tags: Nutritional Know-How