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A FRESH Point of View: Winter Squash

Winter squash are arguably one of the most unique items that make their way to my produce department each fall.  There is a huge variety of these interesting vegetables in an array of colors, shapes and sizes.  The difference between these squash and summer squash is their skin. Summer squash have soft, edible skin while the skins of winter squash have toughened due to harvesting at full maturity.  For this reason, you will also find that the seeds of winter squash are tough and woody. Another contrast between summer and winter squash is that all winter squash must be cooked while summer squash can be enjoyed raw.

While butternut, delicata and spaghetti squash can be peeled (with caution), all the other varieties are virtually impossible to peel. They must simply be cut in half, seeded and then cooked.  The best ways to cook winter squash are steaming or baking.  To bake, squash should be placed flesh side down in a 375° F oven for at least 30 minutes.  Some varieties can take up to one hour.

Winter squash are versatile.  Many varieties can be used to make a main course, soup or dessert.  Their flesh is high in fiber and low in fat and the deep orange flesh of many of these squash is full of immune-boosting beta carotene and other antioxidants.  Their peak season is September through December, so be sure to take full advantage this last month and maybe even try a few new ones!

Here is a list of what I offer in FRESH Produce:

Acorn – green, white and gold – mild and fine-textured with a pale orange-yellow flesh and great for stuffing.

Spaghetti – Nutty in flavor and when cooked, its noodle like strands can be scraped with a fork to make what appears to be spaghetti

Butternut – Sweet orange flesh with a rich creamy texture and it is great in soups or pasta (See my recipe for Butternut Bruschetta below)

Carnival – Flesh is deep yellow and sweet and is great mashed or puréed with butter

Delicata – Tastes like a cross between a butternut squash and sweet potatoes

Gold Nugget – Shaped like a small pumpkin with sweet flesh

Blue Hubbard – Great to purée and use as a ravioli filling

Green Kabocha – Very similar to acorn

Red Kuri – Has a sweet nutty flavor

Turks Turbin – The name reflects its unusual shape

Bruschetta with Chorizo, Butternut Squash and Pesto
Makes two dozen

24 (1/2-inch) diagonally cut baguette slices
2 Tbs butter, melted
1 cup chopped peeled butternut squash
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz FRESH Chorizo
2/3 cup prepared basil pesto
1 1/2 cups shredded fontina or Havarti cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F. On a baking sheet, place baguette slices. Brush both sides of baguette slices with melted butter. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp, turning once.

In a medium skillet, place squash and salt. Add water to cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 7 minutes, or until tender. Drain; wipe skillet. Set squash aside. Add chorizo to skillet; cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, or until done and crumbly. Pat chorizo with a paper towel; stir in squash. Spread about 1 teaspoon pesto over one side of each baguette slice. Divide squash mixture evenly over pesto. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.

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