Season’s Eatings is a column dedicated to eating seasonally and includes recipes and tips that help you make the most of each season’s produce.
Text and photos by Liz of Carpé Season
It’s that time of year again. The time when I wash our bedsheets, and before putting them back on, turn to my husband and ask, “Should we bust out the flannel?” Inevitably, we talk ourselves into one more round of cotton and then regret it every night for the next week or so, doing entire body winces as we crawl into cold cotton sheets. That’s how I know fall is officially here. That and the absolute coup d’état of winter squash at the farmers market. The tomatoes, green beans, and corn have been replaced by the various and odd-looking members of the gourd family, so today we’re breaking down six of the most common winter squash – their appearances, flavor differences, and best uses – as well as talking some general squash-ey tips.
Ready? Set. Gourd.
1. Red Kuri Squash
Description: Red Kuri squash look like small, red-orange, oblong pumpkins with a small conical top. They have smooth skin that is thinner than a pumpkin but still takes some muscle to peel before being cooked. The flesh of the red kuri squash is a beautiful deep orange color and holds together really well when cooked. It has a sweet and nutty flavor, and can even be used in baked desserts.
Best Used In: curries, soups, salads, and baked desserts
2. Butternut Squash
Description: Butternut squash look like elongated peanuts with a smooth, tan peel. Its flesh is bright orange and less stringy than other squash. Once cooked, it has a really creamy texture and tends to fall apart. Peel the butternut squash after roasting, if possible; it will be a lot easier!
Best Used In: soups, pureés, mashes, and pies
3. Carnival Squash
Description: Carnival squash look like a squat “Cinderella” pumpkin, with cream colored skin that has bright orange and green splotchy, vertical stripes and deep ridges. The presence of green splotches indicate peak maturity. Its flesh is yellow, mellow, and sweet – similar to butternut squash or a sweet potato – and holds together well when cooked.
Best Used In: baking, roasting, or stuffing (and making use of that pretty exterior!)
4. Acorn Squash
Description: Acorn squash generally look like fat, forest green footballs with ridges. They are tough to peel (prior to cooking), and the more orange you see on an acorn squash, the tougher they’ll be. Their flesh is a pale yellow orange that holds its shape well when cooked. Acorn squash have a milder flavor than butternut but are still sweet and moist.
Best Used In: roasting, stuffing, baking, mashing
5. Spaghetti Squash:
Description: Spaghetti squash are generally an oblong oval shape with smooth, pale, yellowish skin. They have a yellow flesh that has a sweet, slightly nutty taste. Once cooked, the flesh of the spaghetti squash can be pulled apart into stringy “noodles,”making it a great alternative to pasta.
Best Used As: a substitute for pasta, rice noodles, or in a creamy, cheesy casserole
6. Green Kabocha Squash:
Description: Green Kabocha squash have sort of a smooshed oval pumpkin shape with tough, knobbly, dark green skin that’s really hard to peel before cooking. You’ll often see lighter green stripes. The flesh is orange and very sweet and tender, and comparable in flavor the red kuri. When cooked, it holds its shape very well, as it is a really dense squash.
Best Used In: curries, soups, stir fry, and salads
These are just six of the most commonly seen squash, but the varieties are pretty much endless. Generally, the following rules apply to any squash of your choosing:
-When choosing squash, look for ones that are heavy and have unbroken skin.
-Squash are great for long-term storage. Store them in a dark, dry place. If you plan on keeping them for more than a month, wrap them in newspaper and keep cool (around 50*). Keep in mind that the skin of squash does get tougher as it ages.
-Most squash can be roasted in a similar fashion: cut the squash in half, and remove the seeds and strings. Brush the cut side with oil or butter and place cut-side down in a baking dish. Roast in a preheated 350*-oven for 40-60 minutes or until it is easily pierced with a fork. If the squash is still tough but appears to be drying out, pour ¼-inch of water in the pan as it continues to roast.
Happy Squash Season!