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Fall Into Winter Squash!

Ahhhh! The air is crisp, the leaves are turning and I’m cooking with my favorite winter squashes. Yes, I said “winter” squash not “fall” squash. Really, winter squash should be called fall squash. I mean, it makes sense, right? Winter squash is harvested in the fall, and even some in late summer.

Naturally, I wanted to find out why these varieties of squash would be called “winter”. I posed this question at a family dinner recently and got an array of answers from serious to silly. My serious nephew had it right. He pointed out that these particular types of squash have slightly thicker skins than summer squash varieties such as zucchini, and therefore, last longer into the winter months. My youngest nephew thought they sounded like they could stay warm all winter long because of the thicker rind. He said kinda like they have a sweater on! That comment led to what kind of sweater each variety had on, like stripped for the delicata variety and fat and bulky for an acorn squash. The longer shape of the butternut squash reminded us of a fine gauge sweater, maybe best worn with leggings! Our dinner conversations often derail into hilarity… and we love it!

Here’s a fun dinner conversation starter: What fun and silly thing does each squash look like to you?

Health Wins

Winter squash is not only tasty but is helpful in reducing the risk of many diseases, including heart and respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis. It’s loaded with fiber, Vitamins A, C and B6, plus potassium and other essential minerals. Substitute a sweet potato (still a healthy choice) with butternut squash for all the same vitamins and minerals but half the calories and carbs. It’s a win!

Be Choosy

Pick a squash that feels heavy but doesn’t have any soft spots or bruises. It should be firm and remain that way until you are ready to cook it.

Keep It Cool

Store it in a cool, dry place…don’t refrigerate it! Some varieties of winter squash can last up to 6 months if kept at 50 degrees. Unless you have a root cellar (I don’t!) then keep the squash on the countertop or in your pantry. Most varieties will need to be used within 2-3 months. I keep mine on a counter out of direct sunlight. Use your squashes to make a pretty fall display until you are ready to cook them.

Cook It All Winter

To peel or not to peel…it depends on the variety. Some winter squash should be peeled (butternut and spaghetti), while others have edible skin (like delicata and sweet dumpling). Squash with inedible skin can either be peeled before cooking or the flesh can be scraped out after cooking such as with spaghetti squash.

Variety Is The Name of The Squash

Basically, most winter squashes have a similar mild sweet taste and can be prepared in similar methods. Steam, sauté, bake or roasted, it’s so easy to cook with winter squash. Add to soups and stews or mash as a substitute for potatoes Some varieties will look familiar to you, but others that pop up in stores or the farmers markets are sometimes more unusual looking. Try them all. Ask the produce manager or the farmer at your area market for more information about a squash that catches your eye.

The spaghetti squash is a lone ranger. It’s unique in that the inside is more like its cousin the pumpkin, where the flesh is stringy, It resembles and can be substituted for pasta. The kids love helping to scrape out the strands of this squash to make their “pasta” Check out this video to learn how to pull the “noodles”.  And I love the fact it’s a tasty and low carb pasta substitute.