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You may have noticed varieties of squash appearing in your local grocery store or market. Here is a short guide for choosing, storing, and cooking this versatile vegetable.

Nutrition:

Winter squash is a very nutrient dense food. It is a good to excellent source of beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin C (depending on the variety), and also contains folate and iron. It is low in calories and is fat free. For example, 1/2 cup of cooked butternut squash provides 40 calories, 225% of your daily recommended  intake of vitamin A and 26% of vitamin C.

Purchasing:

Look for a squash with a hard skin free of cuts or soft spots and a stem that is still attached. A squash that is heavy for it’s size means that there is plenty of edible flesh.

Varieties:

There are many varieties of winter squash available at the market. Here are a few examples:

Spaghetti: This unique squash is oval-shaped and yellow (and sometimes orange). The flesh is light yellow and stringy, like its namesake. Because of its mild flavour, spaghetti squash can easily be integrated into a variety of dishes. However, it tastes delicious simply tossed with butter or olive oil and salt and pepper, or topped with spaghetti sauce. Unlike other winter squash varieties, spaghetti squash is best if cooked al dente.

Acorn: This dark green, acorn-shaped squash has an orange, fibrous flesh. Popular for its small size, acorn squash is best for roasting with butter or oil and maybe a little brown sugar or real maple syrup for the sweet tooth.

Butternut: This tan-coloured, peanut-shaped squash is mild, solid, contains few seeds and is my favourite for soups.

 

Buttercup: A dark green squash with a rich orange flesh, buttercup squash has a bold sweet flavour and is excellent for roasting, mashing, and in soups.

Storage:

Raw squash (whole): Winter squash can be stored up to three months in a cool dry place. Leave part of the stem attached to help retain moisture.

Raw squash (cut open): Wrap in plastic wrap or place in a sealed container and store in the fridge up to five days.

Cooked squash: Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to five days or in the freezer for up to a year.

Cooking:

There is a very simple method for cooking winter squash that can be applied to all varieties.

  1. Carefully cut the squash in half vertically with a large knife (you will be cutting the stem in half). If it is a very large squash, you may need to cut it into smaller pieces.
  2. Scoop out the seeds (you can save the seeds for roasting).
  3. Spread the exposed flesh with olive or vegetable oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for about 30-45 minutes (depending on the size and variety) until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork.

Recipes using winter squash:

Butternut squash and apple soup

Quinoa pumpkin muffins

Butternut squash and mascarpone gnocchi

Roasted squash seeds

 

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