Winter squash are a nutritious and delicious fruit to enjoy, containing a lot of vitamins and minerals. Let’s explore the variety of winter squash and how they shine as a star ingredient.
About Winter Squash
- Winter squash belong to the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, and classified as a fruit; although many people believe they are vegetables. The blanket term “winter squash” refers to a large, varied plant family. No two squash are alike. They come with ribbed or bumpy skin, in irregular shapes and vibrant colors ranging from yellow to orange to dark green. Their beautiful flesh ranges from a golden yellow to vibrant orange.
- Compared to their summer squash counterparts, winter squash take longer to mature and are harvested when the cool weather sets in during the fall season.
- They have a denser texture and flavor with a firm flesh. Their edible seeds offer a nutritional bonus and are a great snack. Although you can eat the skin, it is not always tasty as it can get tough and stringy and is best peeled so the flesh can be the start of the dish.
- Winter squash are at their peak in October and November, but may be found at the grocery store from August all the way through March. As the name suggests, they can be stored for months in a cool basement due to their thick skins, but should not be refrigerated unless they have been cut.
- When shopping, choose a squash with a firm exterior as the rind becomes firmer as it matures. Avoid squash with soft spots, cracks, or a shiny exterior as those can be signs of it being unripe or spoiled.
Spaghetti squash have become more popular as consumers are looking for healthier alternatives to traditional pasta.
This mild-tasting squash is yellow in color with a distinct oblong shape. Once cooked, the inside flesh of the squash can be scraped with fork and separated into thread-like pieces resembling noodles.
One cup of cooked spaghetti squash comes in at a mere 42 calories and contains only 10 grams of carbohydrates, supplies 2 grams of fiber and is fat, sodium and cholesterol free. Consider substituting this slightly sweet squash in place of pasta the next time you make a Bolognese sauce or meatballs.
Acorn squash are named for their acornlike shape and are usually on the smaller end with a dark green exterior and mildly flavored yellow-orange flesh.
It is one of the most popular winter squash varieties and is known as the sweetest. When shopping, choose one with a dull green rind for best taste. Its buttery taste makes it great roasted, mashed, stuffed or pureed into soup.
A one-cup serving of acorn squash comes in at 56 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates and is rich in vitamins A and C as well as potassium and calcium.
Blue Hubbard Squash
Not as common but equally delicious, blue hubbard squash is an oval and plump shape with a pale blue-gray rind that can be tough and bumpy and a golden yellow flesh.
It has a large central cavity containing seeds perfect for roasting. The inner flesh resembles the flavor of cooked pumpkin as it is tender with a sweet, nutty flavor. The thin rind should be removed before or after cooking as it is inedible. It is best enjoyed roasted, baked, boiled or steamed and can be used as a substitute for pumpkin or butternut squash.
A one cup serving clocks in at 50 calories with 10 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber along with over 100% of your daily value of vitamin A.
Featured Recipe: Roasted Acorn and Delicate Squash Salad
This recipe features acorn and delicata squash, roasted to heighten the flavor of their sweet flesh.
Delicata squash has a thinner, more tender skin that can be left on and consumed if desired. Wheat berries look like thick, short grains similar to brown rice and are a true whole grain. They have a nutty, earthy flavor and chewy texture which is a perfect contrast to the roasted squash and tender leaves. The basic vinaigrette pulls this light vegetarian dish together and the goat cheese adds a nice creamy note at the end. Enjoy this warm salad alongside any protein or by itself as a hearty salad with a piece of whole grain bread.
Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash Salad
- 1medium acorn squash (1 1/2 Ib), quartered lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/3” slices
- 1medium delicata squash (1 Ib), halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/3” slices
- 2Tbspplus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- Sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4tspapple cider vinegar
- 1/2cupcooked wheat berries, drained, cooled
- 2ozsmall red or green mustard leaves (about 4 cups, loosely packed)
- 2ozarugula leaves (about 4 cups, loosely packed)
- 1/4cupthinly sliced red pearl onions or shallots
- 4ozaged goat cheese, rind removed, shaved
- 1/4cuptoasted pumpkin seeds
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place acorn squash slices on one tray and sliced delicata on the other. Toss each with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.
- Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes; flip squash, rotate trays, and roast for another 10-15 minutes or until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- Whisk vinegar, 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl; stir in wheat berries.
- Spread half of greens over a serving platter or bottom of a wide bowl, then add half of acorn squash, delicata squash, pearl onions, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with half of dressing; repeat with remaining ingredients and dressing. Toss lightly; serve immediately.