The Glories of Winter Squash

These fruits are not only delicious—their shapes and colors make them works of art, too!

Arctic wind blows, sweaters are needed, boxes of tissue are at the ready and the kitchen is gearing up for some serious cold weather cooking. That’s when I think about winter squashes. Who can resist their bright colors, ranging from yellow, red, green and speckled orange? And their shapes are unique too, sporting crooked necks, stylish turbans and striped skin! They are works of art in my eyes. Besides cooking with them, they make stunning arrangements as decorative centerpieces.

Native Americans called squash askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or cooked.” From that, we derive the word squash. Most winter squash are vine-type plants whose fruits are harvested when they are mature. They take longer to reach maturity than summer squash (three months or more) and are best harvested in the fall. Squash have a very long shelf life if kept in a cool, dark place. There many cultivars, including acorn, hubbard, kabocha and spaghetti—and that is just for starters!

Squash are an excellent source of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Some studies suggest that winter squash is a good source of antioxidants, is an anti-inflammatory and helps to protect our immune system. All the more reason for adding winter squash to our diet.

Squash are one of the most versatile vegetables in the world and can be prepared in hundreds of ways. Some of my favorite squashes include the popular butternut with its brilliant orange flesh and creamy, nutty flavor. It becomes the base for so many things from soups to sauces to just plain baked. Acorn squash, with its pretty ribbed shell, is perfect for stuffing or roasting or adding to risotto—and did you know that it is delicious as an ingredient for breads and muffins? Delicata is sweeter than most other winter squashes and tastes a bit like sweet potatoes. Fresh pumpkin (not to be confused with jack o’ lantern) is a must for pies, and those pumpkin seeds are perfect when dried and added to focaccia, bread or pizza dough.

Winter will eventually exhaust itself, but ways to cook winter squash are inexhaustible.

Winter Squash Recipes

Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Salad

Onion, Potato and Pumpkin-Seed Focaccia

Focaccia Dough

Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Categories: Food & Recipes, Side dishes