Winter squash comes in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. It is harvested in the fall after the plants die but before the first hard frost. Most people are familiar with butternut, acorn and pumpkins. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Sweet Dumpling and Delicata are sweet with a thin edible skin. They are small and don't store well, but in the fall they are a real treat. Acorn is a moderately long keeper, but the flavor is very hit or miss. Some acorns are delicious but I find most are rather bland. However, since they are most often served stuffed, people don't usually notice. Pumpkins are my least favorite winter squash. The flesh tends to be dry, bland and stringy. We don't grow them since their best use is for decoration at Halloween and you can find them anywhere for that purpose. The star of the winter squash world is butternut. It stores like a champ and the flavor is always consistently good. Butternuts have a thick meaty neck that gives you a lot of usable squash. Butternuts are equally good used in sweet desserts and savory dishes. They are the variety I use most often and work in most any recipe. If you want to make fresh pumpkin pie, use butternut. Most canned pumpkin isn't pumpkin but a strain called Dickinson Field Pumpkin that resembles, and is more closely related to, butternut. Winter squash is very versatile and one of my favorite winter treats. The black bean butternut stew and winter squash tostadas are two of my all-time favorite recipes. The recipe links are below.
Store winter squash in a cool, dry place like a back kitchen cupboard or your basement if it isn't too damp.
Cooked winter squash freezes great. Whenever I bake a squash. I always cook as many as will fit in my oven. I then freeze the extra by measuring it out into freezer bags. Be sure to label how much is in each freezer bag and freeze in amounts called for in your favorite recipes. This way you get the most out of your hot oven and save time later.
- Cut in half, scoop out seeds, coat with oil inside and out and bake cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil at 375 for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size. A fork should easily pierce skin when done. You can then eat right out of the skin as a side dish or scoop out flesh for use in other recipes. NOTE for butternut cut the neck off the bottom hollow portion before baking since the neck will take longer to cook.
- Winter squash are good filled with your favorite stuffing. Just be sure to cook them as described above before stuffing. After stuffing heat again in oven at 350 until stuffing is heated through.
- Peel, cube and steam till soft. Usually about 20 minutes.
- Add cubes or puree to soups and stews.
- Cube and roast alone or with root vegetables tossed in olive oil and baked at 350 for 40-60 minutes.