Winter Squash 101

We've all tried pumpkin and butternut squash, but did you know there are many more varieties with superb health benefits and flavors? Find out here...

January 6, 2014

It’s the season of the squash. Those delicious and delightfully decorative squash varieties that are good for everything from soup to centerpieces and more. But for those of us simply heading to the supermarket for our pumpkins, winter squashes and gourds, here are some simple shopping tips.

Aside from decorative selections, there is a valuable and nutritious reason to celebrate the season of the winter squash. 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. Many winter squash have astounding health benefits.

Winter squash can be harvested very late into the fall, has a longer storage potential, and still provides an outstanding variety of nutrients. Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, potassium, fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash is a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid.

Here are some great squashes to choose from:
Acorn Squash is a nutty and delicious selection, easy to prepare, and can be cut in half and stuffed for a meal all on its own. When choosing, the rind should be hard and dull, not shiny or soft. Choose the firmest and heaviest of the selection to ensure that it's fresh and has good flavor.

Banana Squash 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.

Buttercup Squash has a sweet, creamy orange flesh. It can be a bit dry. To select the best, choose specimens that are heavy for their size.

Butternut Squash is easy to use and a popular selection. The rind is thin enough to peel off with a vegetable peeler. It has a sweet, pleasantly nutty flavor.

Delicata Squash 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.

Golden Nugget Squash 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.

Hubbard Squash has tasty flesh, but it's too large for many to handle and the rind is hard to cut though. Some grocers cut them into smaller pieces before putting them out.

Kabocha Squash taste similar to sweet potatoes, and is the richest and creamiest of all the squash. After cooking, you don't even have to remove the skin. Kabocha is actually the generic name used for the different varieties of Japanese winter squash.

Spaghetti Squash provides long yellow strands that you can pull out with a fork once it’s cooked. These strands resemble spaghetti but taste like squash, providing "noodles" that can serve as a low-calorie substitute for pasta.

So head out to the supermarket and if you haven’t yet, discover the wealth of winter squashes colorfully decorating the produce section, pick your favorite variety, or a new one mentioned above, and carve out a deliciously healthy meal. And don’t forget pumpkin, which is also a healthy and delicious squash!

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