The term “summer” and “winter” squash are not really meant to confuse the consumer. In fact, many traditional “winter” squashes become available in late summer, fall and into the winter. The reality is, that it the term “winter” squash originally meant that a squash would store until December.
Winter squash comes in many shapes and colors. From round, elongated, pear shaped with flesh that ranges from gold, grey, green and orange. Winter squash have hard, thick skins that are designed to be stored in a cool, dark, well ventilated area. Winter squash varieties tend to develop a higher beta-carotene (precursor for vitamin A), and include some of the standards like: acorn, banana squash, butternut, carnival, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and the turban squash.
Certainly one of the easiest ways to cook winter squash is to bake them whole. Washyour squash, slit a hole or two in it so the steam can escape, then bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for about an hour. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, top with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Mmmm…..
Acorn Squash – certainly one of the most common varieties, shaped similar to an acorn. With distinct ribs that run the length of it’s hard blackish-dark green skin easily make it identifiable.
Banana Squash – easy to identify as a bright orange, finely textured squash nearly two feet in length and 6 inches in diameter shaped almost like a giant orange banana. It has a sweeter taste. (no photo)
Butternut Squash – readily found throughoutNorthern Colorado, the butternut has a beige color and shaped somewhat like an ob-long bell or vase. It’s a bit more watery than most winter squash with a fine textured, orange flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor. Typically, the oranger the squash, the riper the squash – meaning it will likely be drier and a little sweeter.
Carnival Squash – a cream colored smaller squash with orange spots or pale green with dark green spots in a vertical fashion. The meat is a yellow color, and tastes similar to sweet potatoes and butternut.
Delicata Squash (one of my personal favorites) – also known as the “sweet potato” squash, it’s roots are reported to be Bohemian. It has a creamy pulp that tastes very similar to sweet potatoes. A narrower squash, about 8 to 10 inches long, generally yellow with perhaps some green vertical stripes. After research, the Delicata is an heirloom variety that was originally introduced into theUSand gained popularity from 1894 to the 1920’s, but is now making a huge come back in the culinary world as a revived favorite by chefs.
Hubbard Squash – these are very large and irregularly shaped with a skin that almost appears to be “warted” and irregular. The range from a blue / gray to a green. Due to their size, the hubbard squash is often sold in cut pieces. The flesh is yellow and tends to be moist. This squash is generally peeled and boiled, cut up and roasted or cut small and steamed or sautéed. The hubbard is perfect for pies. One interesting fact, is that the hubbard, if in good condition, can be successfully stored for up to six months at 50 to 55 degrees.
Kabocha Squash (also another of my favorites) – a Japanese squash, dark green in color, about 4 inches tall and about 8 inches in diameter. Kabocha may be cooked whole or split, with a rich sweet flavor and often dry and flaky. I like to top this with some butter, cinnamon and a little brown sugar.
Spaghetti Squash – a noodle squash, almost like a small, tan watermelon. It has a golden rind with a mild, nut like flavor. When cooked, the flesh separates in strands resembling spaghetti or angel hair pasta. So, this squash is the exception and it would be best to top this one with butter and perhaps parmesan cheese, some garlic, or even spaghetti sauce.
Sweet Dumpling – this small squash resembles a miniature pumpkin with the top pushed in. Golden yellow, with green vertical stripes, it weighs about a half a pound, and has a sweet, tender orange colored flesh that makes it ideal for roasting for individual servings or even stuffing. (no photo)
Turban Squash – with a variety in colors ranging from bright orange, green and even white, it looks like a bulblike cap swollen up. The shape and fantastic color makes the turban squash popular for fall centerpieces, with a golden yellow flesh that has a nutty flavor. (no photo)