Winter squash have hard, thick skins, seeds in the middle, and dense, firm flesh that ranges from pale yellow to deep orange. They also require longer cooking times than other vegetables. Well-known varieties of winter squash include acorn, buttercup, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti, and turban. Winter squash are good sources of vitamins A and C, as well as riboflavin and iron.
Selecting and Storing Squash
- Winter squash are available year-round but reach their peak from early fall through the winter.
- Look for winter squash that seem heavy for their size. They should have a hard rind that is free of bruises, dents, and mold.
- The hard rind on winter squash allows them to be stored longer than summer squash. They do not require refrigeration. Store winter squash in a cool, dark place for one month or more, depending on the variety.
How to Peel and Chop Winter Squash
Step 1: Remove stem end
Using a large, sturdy knife, cut off about 1 inch from the stem end of the squash.
Step 2: Cut the winter squash in half
- Insert the knife lengthwise into the center of the squash.
- Use your other hand to press the knife all the way through the squash.
Step 3: Remove seeds
- Using a large spoon, scrape the seeds and fibrous strings from each squash half.
- You may discard the seeds or save them for roasting.
Step 4: Peel the winter squash
- Hold a squash half at an angle on your cutting board and use a sturdy vegetable peeler to peel down its length.
- For winter squash with ridged skin, such as acorn squash, use a sharp knife rather than a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
- The squash is now ready to be chopped as desired for using in recipes.
Baking Winter Squash
Baking is the simplest way to cook squash because it doesn?t require peeling the squash first.
How to bake winter squash:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Using a sharp, sturdy knife, cut the winter squash in half. Use a large, sturdy spoon to remove the seeds.
- Place the squash halves in a shallow roasting pan, cut sides up.
- Place 1 tablespoon butter in each squash half. If desired, sprinkle each half with salt, brown sugar, fresh or dried herbs, and/or cinnamon-sugar. You may also drizzle each half with honey or maple syrup.
- Bake the squash for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.
- Allow the squash to cool slightly after baking. Slice the squash halves into individual servings or scrape the flesh into a bowl.
Tip:If using small winter squash, each baked half may be served whole.
Cooking with Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash differs from other varieties of winter squash because it possesses a mild, less-sweet flavor and very fibrous flesh that, when removed, looks like spaghetti.
To remove the flesh from a baked spaghetti squash:
- Use a fork to loosen the fibers.
- Using a large, sturdy spoon, scrape the fibers from the squash.
- Serve spaghetti squash in place of pasta with various sauces, such as Bolognese Sauce