Autumn is truly a feast for the senses, with its stunning colors, nip in the air, and tastes and smells of soul-nourishing comfort foods.
Brightly-coloured, whimsically-shaped with certain varieties, such as butternut, high in Vitamin A, winter squashes make the perfect main course or centerpiece, whether your autumn passion is watching the leaves change or watching the big game!
- Some varieties of winter squashes can be found year-round, but are most abundant in late summer through winter.
While there are many varieties, the following are the most common:
This deep-ridged, acorn-shaped squash can be found in black, dark green or orange. Its flesh is light yellow to orange and may have a moderately sweet to bland flavour. It's most often halved and stuffed or baked simply with spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Turban-like in shape with a light green cap on a dark green base. The pulp is a creamy shade of yellow.
This squash has a football shape. It is lumpy skinned, with colours ranging from dark green, light-grey blue, creamy white or pumpkin coloured in appearance. All varieties have a bright yellow pulp. They range in weight from 3-8 pounds.
More common on front porches than in kitchens, you can purchase a sugar pumpkin to try your hand at making a pumpkin pie from scratch. Luckily, canned pumpkin is an easy substitute that tastes pretty close to the real thing.
This is the most colourful of all the squashes, featuring a bright orange rind with deep green, white and yellow splashes. It looks like a flattened pumpkin. Turkish turbans are wonderful and attractive when baked whole.
Also called vegetable spaghetti, this tan, long oval variety is a special treat. After baking, you can run a fork through the flesh and pull out long yellow strands that resemble spaghetti. These "noodles" make a great substitute for pasta.
- Look for heavy squashes with smooth, dry rinds that have a dull finish, and are free of cracks or soft spots. Shiny rinds may indicate premature picking, resulting in poor flavour.
- Search for squash with a deep, uniform colour and if possible, choose one whose rounded, dry stem is still intact.
- Thanks to their protective shells, uncut winter squashes should keep for three months or longer in a cool, dry place.
- Cut, raw squash will keep for up to a week if tightly wrapped and refrigerated.
Preparation / Cooking
- Squash is great simply baked; stuffed, mashed or pureed; or added to soups and stews. However, getting to that point often requires the daunting task of slicing the squash in half or peeling the hard rind.
- Cooking the squash first makes this easy. Pierce the skin of a whole squash in several places with a knife. Microwave on HIGH for a couple of minutes. Let cool. Carefully slice in half through the stem and scoop out seeds. It is now ready to be further cooked or cut into smaller pieces. This is a quick and easy way to prepare squash if the rind is particularly tough. However, if the rind is not giving you any trouble, it can also be cut in half in its raw state, cleaned and topped with butter and sugar before baking.
- For a great alternative to pasta the kids are sure to love, pierce a spaghetti squash all over with a knife tip. Place on a microwave turntable and microwave on HIGH for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Let cool. Cut in half, remove the seeds and scrape the strands into a bowl and separating with a fork to resemble "spaghetti strands." Toss with Kraft 100% Parmesan Grated Cheese.