Squashes are made up of two major groups: winter and summer squash. Winter squashes are harvested in the fall; they have hard thick rind and tough seeds that are scooped out before use. Winter squash can be baked, roasted, mashed, stuffed or added to stews and soups. There are a variety of winter squashes in many sizes and colours with varying flavours.
This fall season try one or all of the following winter squash:
Acorn squash is oval with deep ribs, dark green exterior with some orange colouring and an orange flesh. It is tender with a mild flavour. Less common is the white acorn squash.
Butternut squash is pear-shaped, smooth-skinned with a light beige exterior and orange flesh.
Buttercup squash is round and dark green with flecks or gray and an orange flesh with a sweet flavour similar to sweet potato.
Kabocha, a winter squash similar to the Buttercup, is dark green with light green streaks and a sweet flavour like pumpkin and sweet potato. They can get very large in size.
Hubbard squash is very large with bumpy skin and a short neck, ranging in colour from orange to dark or light green. This squash is less sweet and more grainy in texture, so it is generally served mashed and pureed with seasonings.
Spaghetti Squash is oval and pale yellow with a smooth skin. Once cooked the yellow flesh can be separated into strands that look similar to spaghetti noodles and served with a pasta sauce or pesto.
Turban Squash have a hard shell, is orange in colour with bits of green and white. It has a distinct shape and looks like one squash being swallowed by the other. The flavour is mild.
Pumpkin is also a winter squash and can be used in many recipes other than pumpkin pie.
To bake winter squash:
Wash and cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds. Place, cut side down, on a greased or foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400°F until tender, approximately 40 - 50 minutes. Very large squash can also be cut in wedges or chunks, covered loosely with foil and baked until tender. Alternately, squash halves or wedges can be baked in a covered roasting pan at 350°F until tender about 1 hour or more depending on the size.
If desired, halved small squash can be stuffed and baked, cut side up, until tender.
For recipes calling for mashed squash; bake, cool slightly, remove the cooked flesh from the skin. Mash with a potato masher or puree in a food processor until smooth.
To bake a spaghetti squash whole, pierce with a fork in several places, place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F, turning squash over after 45 minutes, for 1 ½ hour or until surface gives to pressure and squash is tender when pierced with a fork. After baking, split squash horizontally. Scoop out the discard seeds; pull strands free with a fork.
Spaghetti squash can alternately be cooked in a microwave. To microwave cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, place cut side down in a microwaveable dish add small amount of water and cover with lid or loosely with plastic wrap, microwave on high for 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Loosen strands of flesh from skin with a fork.
To cook a squash on the stovetop, wash squash, peel, cut into cubes (removing and discarding seeds) and simmer, covered, in a saucepan of salted water until tender. Drain well.
Storage and Selection:
Chose firm, unblemished squash with a good colour and avoid those with soft spots.