We associate fall with a lot of things: cooler weather, cozy sweaters, changing leaves, crisp apples, and homes decorated with beautiful pumpkins and gourds. But perhaps the most overlooked autumn accompaniment is winter squash. Pumpkins tend to get all the attention, but we love cooking with the squash that hits its peak as the weather starts changing: acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash. These versatile varieties of winter squash can be used in a number of dishes and should be making an appearance on your fall table this season.
Know Your Squash
Acorn: This squash not only gets its name from its acorn-like shape but also because its sweet, mellow flavor has a nutty essence. Partial orange coloring on the firm skin is good yet too much indicates an overripe squash.
Butternut: Find a squash that is rock-solid and heavy for its size. The skin should be matte rather than glossy. Look for an intact stem if possible, which will help slow down the loss of moisture. When cooked, butternut squash has a sweet, starchy flavor.
Spaghetti: Large, oval, and yellow, this variety looks similar to a melon and has a moist, mild flavor. When you cut it in half, yellow flesh separates into long, translucent strands that resemble spaghetti noodles. This squash is ripe when its color changes from green to yellow and easily snaps off the vine.
Keeping it Fresh
The best way to store most winter squash is to first peel off the skin and then cut the squash into pieces of suitable size for individual recipes. Once cut, cover the pieces in plastic wrap or resealable plastic bags; store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Store spaghetti squash whole and at room temperature; use within two weeks of purchase.
Winter squash can be found from August through March; however, they’re at their best in fall and winter. Not sure where to find winter squash in your neighborhood? Find a farmers’ market close to your backyard here.
Seeds from winter squash can be toasted just like pumpkin seeds. Smaller seeds will brown more quickly, so toast similar-size seeds together and watch carefully to keep them from burning.