Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Winter squash come in many sizes and shapes, but all have hard outer rinds that surround sweet, often orange flesh. They arrive late in the growing season and have a long shelf life, so they've long been a staple in winter and spring, when other vegetables are harder to come by.


Unlike summer squash, winter squash must be cooked. They're usually baked or steamed, and then sometimes puréed. Select squashes that are heavy for their size.


Varieties:



acorn squash, Des Moines squash, pepper squash
acorn squash
This orange-fleshed winter squash is popular because of its small size--it can be cut in half and baked to make two generous servings. The rind, unfortunately, is quite hard and difficult to cut. To avoid injuring yourself, first slice off both the top and the bottom with a sharp knife, and use the stem end as a base for the more treacherous halving cut. Select acorn squash with as much green on the rind as possible, though most will have a single orange spot on one side.
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banana squash
banana squash
This variety is so large that grocers usually cut into smaller chunks before putting it out. It's tasty, but its biggest virtue is the beautiful golden color of its flesh.
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buttercup squash
buttercup squash
With sweet and creamy orange flesh, the buttercup is one of the more highly regarded winter squashes. The biggest shortcoming is that it tends to be a bit dry. Choose specimens that are heavy for their size.
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butternut squash
butternut squash
This variety is very popular because it's so easy to use. It's small enough to serve a normal family without leftovers, and the rind is thin enough to peel off with a vegetable peeler. As an added bonus, the flavor is sweet, moist, and pleasantly nutty.
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calabaza, abóbora, ahuyama, crapaudback, Cuban squash, giraumon, green pumpkin
calabaza
These are popular in Hispanic countries and throughout the Caribbean. They're large, so markets often cut them up before selling them.
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delicata squash, Bohemian squash, sweet potato squash
delicata squash
This is one of the tastier winter squashes, with creamy pulp that tastes a bit like sweet potatoes. Choose squash that are heavy for their size.
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golden nugget squash, oriental pumpkin
golden nugget squash
This has a pleasant flavor, but it doesn't have as much flesh as other squashes and the heavy rind makes it hard to cut before cooking. Select specimens that are heavy for their size, and that have a dull finish. Those with shiny rinds were probably picked too young, and won't be as sweet.
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Hubbard squash
Hubbard squash
This variety has tasty flesh, but it's too large for many families to handle and the rind is hard to cut though. Some grocers cut them into smaller pieces before putting them out.
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kabocha squash, Japanese pumpkin, Japanese squash, kabachi, nam gwa, sweet mama
kabocha squash
This orange-fleshed winter squash has a striated green rind. It's sweeter, drier, and less fibrous than other winter squash, and it tastes a bit like sweet potatoes.
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pumpkin, jack o'lantern pumpkin, pie pumpkin, sugar pumpkin
pumpkin
Use the small sugar pumpkin = pie pumpkin for pies; the larger jack o'lantern pumpkin is too watery. Canned pumpkin purée is convenient and a good substitute for fresh.
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spaghetti squash, calabash, vegetable spaghetti
spaghetti squash
After it's cooked, you can dig a fork into the flesh of a spaghetti squash and pull out long yellow strands that resemble spaghetti. Though they taste like squash, the "noodles" can serve as a low-calorie substitute for pasta.
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sweet dumpling squash
sweet dumpling squash
Sweet dumpling squash are fairly small, so you can cut them in half, bake them, and serve each half as an individual portion. The flesh is sweeter and drier than that of other winter squash, and the peel is soft enough to be eaten.
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turban squash
turban squash
This squash has a gorgeous rind, but ho-hum flavor. It makes a good centerpiece, or you can hollow it out and use it as a spectacular soup tureen.
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winter squash
winter squash
Winter squash come in many sizes and shapes, but all have hard outer rinds that surround sweet, often orange flesh. Winter squash arrive late in the growing season and they have a long shelf life, so they've long been a staple in winter and spring, when other vegetables are harder to come by. Unlike summer squash, winter squash must be cooked. They're usually baked or steamed, and then sometimes puréed. Select squash that are heavy for their size.
Learn more