It’s fall now, so our farmers’ markets and grocers are slowly changing to include some of our favorite seasonal produce.
Sure pumpkin is popping up everywhere, including in our coffee, breads, muffins, and desserts — not to mention on our front doors and porches as decorations.
But what about the other great fall produce choices — winter squashes, that we can use to enrich our tables and our nutrition at this time of year?
There are many varieties that we can use and try if we have never had them before that can add color and nutrition to our family meals.
Here are some you should be able to find at your favorite produce stand:
- Spaghetti squash (flesh looks like spaghetti when steamed)
- Hubbard squash (large; pumpkin flavor)
- Acorn squash
- Butternut squash (sweetest winter squash)
- Crookneck squash
- Buttercup squash (smaller, rounder variety)
- Kabocha squash (described as a cross between a sweet potato and a pumpkin)
- Turbin squash (good for decorations or as a soup bowl)
These varieties of winter squash are picked in the autumn, when they are hard and ripe, and can be stored for weeks. After the harvest, winter squash is hardened off by allowing the skin time to harden to resist mold and insect damage.
How to Select Winter Squash
When selecting winter squash at the farmers’ market or grocer, you want to find the squash that is free from soft spots or obvious blemishes. Winter squash should be firm and heavy for its size relative to other items in the produce area.
Most of the time you will find a whole squash in the market but some retailers have begun cutting them into smaller portions and removing the seeds.
Winter Squash Nutritional Value
Winter squashes are good sources of vitamins and minerals, especially beta carotene (precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, iron and potassium as well as fiber while being relatively low in calories.
Winter squash as a group have about 80 calories per 1 cup of cooked squash.
Cooking with Winter Squash
Most winter squash is used in recipes for soups, stews, side dishes or stuffed and served with other meal items.
It is often baked, roasted, steamed, boiled or even grilled. It can be added to rice, curry dishes, greens, and pies. Spaghetti squash can be used in place of pasta with your favorite sauce.
Most seeds can be roasted and are delicious for snacking and salads!
Since winter squash is generally hard and firm, it is best to cut one down the middle until it breaks and remove the seeds with a spoon. Peel with a knife for recipes and then cut into desired size cubes or bake in the skin and remove it after cooking according to the recipe.
Favorite Winter Squash Recipes
My family really enjoys baked butternut squash and we have it all throughout the fall and winter as an easy side dish. We also love chunks of winter squash mixed with chunks of potatoes, carrots and onions roasted with olive oil and seasonings.
Here is one of our favorite winter squash recipes that takes the colorful squash to the next level and is a great addition to our Thanksgiving table.
I hope you will enjoy these ideas and all the great ways we can add nutritious winter squash to our family meals this fall!
- 2 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
- 1 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup apple, cubed with skin on
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup cranberries, fresh
- 2 Tablespoons walnuts or pecans, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Dash nutmeg
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoons butter
- Wash, cut and seed acorn squash.
- Baste with 1 Tablespoon butter.
- Bake on a baking sheet at 375 degrees F for one hour until flesh is soft.
- While squash bakes, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
- Add all other ingredients and mix until heated.
- Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until apples become tender.
- Spoon apple mixture into baked acorn squash dividing evenly.
- Return to oven and cook for 15 more minutes until heated thoroughly.
- Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious apples are good varieties to choose due to their sweetness and moisture content.
- You can use either regular or golden raisins but the darker color adds color depth to this mixture.
- If desired, use dried cranberries but I prefer the fresh.