Winter squash plays a staring role in many autumn menus, so we thought you might appreciate a crash course (or quick refresher) on these hearty gourds. There are many varieties of winter squash, each with their own taste and texture. With so many to choose from, it’s easy to feel lost in the produce isle. We’ve compiled a list of the most common types of winter squash and outlined how to pick them, how to store them and what do to with them. Welcome to Winter Squash 101!
Winter squash, in all it’s incarnations, is loaded with beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin C, making it the ideal choice for health-conscious eaters. Winter squash is harvested in late summer and early fall, but most supermarkets stock them year round. It’s best to select squash that is heavy for its size with smooth and vibrant skin. If the squash is bruised, split or covered in soft patches, set it aside. Squash should be handled with care, as it is prone to bruising. A thick-skinned squash will keep uncut at room temperature for a couple of months.
Named for it acorn-like shape, the acorn squash is among the most common varieties of winter squash. It is covered in a thick green and orange skin, and its flesh is paler and more fibrous than other varieties of winter squash.
Perhaps the most famous member of the winter squash family, the butternut squashed is beloved for it’s velvety texture and buttery taste. The butternut is easy to recognize thanks to it’s bell-shape and thick-skin. Its flesh is a vibrant orange that is best when cubed and roasted, or pureed. This variety of squash is harder to open than Fort Knox, but thankfully many grocery stores offer packages of butternut already cubed.
Beloved by those looking to avoid carbohydrates, the spaghetti squash has been enjoying a rush of popularity over the past ten years. The spaghetti squash is easy to recognize due to its oval shape, telltale yellow hue, and smooth skin. When roasted and shredded with a fork, the spaghetti squash’s flesh forms noodle-like strands, which are slightly crunchy in texture with nutty in flavour.
SUGAR PIE PUMPKIN:
Smaller than the decorative jack-o-lantern pumpkin, the sugar pie pumpkin has a rich, sweet flavour that is more intense the smaller the pumpkin is. This variety of squash is better suited for high heat cooking. Roasting, stir-frying and baking are all suitable options.
Kabocha is named after the Japanese word for squash. Prevalent in Asian cooking, the kabocha is relatively new to the western palate and is often mistaken for (and mislabeled as) Buttercup squash. It is shaped like a small, slightly squashed pumpkin covered in a dark green skin with light green stripes. It has bright orange flesh that is extremely smooth and sweet. Due to its smooth texture, the kabocha is ideal for soups, sauces and purees.
The delicata squash has a distinct oblong shape. It’s covered in a thick yellow skin with dark green stripes. It’s known as the sweet potato squash, due to it smooth and sweet flesh. The delicata squash is often sold under the name peanut squash or bohemian squash, so if you don’t see the delicata name, don’t despair.