Crunchy leaves. Campfires. Football. Sweaters. And an abundance of squash! Fall is here.
What we commonly call ‘winter squash’ is actually a diverse group of three different species of plants from the cucurbitaceae family; the same family that is home to summer squash, melons, and cucumbers. These three species of plants are native to the Western Hemisphere and have been cultivated by indigenous communities across the Americas since at least 8,000 B.C. They are a nutritionally dense food that is high in fiber and a great source of vitamin A (hello fabulous night vision!) and Vitamin C (immune health, skin integrity). They are also extremely versatile in cooking and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.
Some of the squash you might see at the farmers market:
• Acorn: mild, subtly sweet and nutty. Fun fact, you can eat the skin!
• Buttercup: sweet (often sweeter than other varieties) and smooth. The flesh can be dry, so this variety works well for steaming, baking, or adding to curry.
• Butternut: very sweet, smooth flesh. One of the sweetest varieties of winter squash. Perfect for soups, roasting, sauteing, or baking in pies, cookies, and breads.
• Delicata: mildly sweet flavor (some liken it to sweet potatoes) with a creamy, smooth flesh and thin, edible skin. Ideal for roasting, a quick saute or stuffing.
• Hubbard: rich, sweet pumpkin flavor. Versatile substitute for any other winter squash.
• Kobocha: nice nutty flavor and balanced sweetness with a texture similar to sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
• Pie Pumpkin: starchy and sweet flesh. Great addition to chili, soups, and, of course, baked goods.
• Spaghetti: tender and chewy texture with a mildly sweet and nutty flavor. Least sweet of all winter squash. Great pasta substitute.
• Sweet Dumpling: starchy and sweet flesh. Great for stuffing and roasting.
- 2-4 delicata squash, depending on size (~1.5 lbs)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees and wipe off the squash.
- Cut delicata in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Cut each delicata half into 1/2 inch segments, creating moon shaped pieces.
- Arrange the pieces in a single layer on a baking pan and toss with olive oil. Too much oil can make the squash soggy. Salt gently.
- Place in oven and roast 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the squash in the pan so the browned sides are facing upward.
- Continue roasting, turning every 7-10 minutes until both sides of the squash are golden brown and the squash is soft (about 25-30 minutes). Adjust salt as needed.
Kelly Wilson is a registered dietitian and the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference. She is currently celebrating the fall season with copious amounts of gourd decorations and culinary adventures with winter squash. Send her your favorite winter squash recipes at [email protected].