Harvest season always comes with an abundance of winter squash. These fruits, which are eaten like vegetables, are available in various shapes and colours. Winter squashes are very healthy, which is why they should be on the menu more often.
Winter Squash: Varieties
Each squash’s shape is different, but they all have similarities, such as hard, thick skin and a long shelf life, between three to twelve months. Under this tough skin, there are edible seeds and fibrous or velvety pulp.
There are more than a hundred winter squash varieties. Here are some of the best-known ones:
Pumpkins: A Halloween icon, pumpkins come in many different shapes and sizes. Pie pumpkins are small and sweet, while decorative pumpkins are larger and less sweet. Although orange pumpkins are more widely known, their cousins, white pumpkins, are just as delicious.
Butternut squash: It is known for its bulbous or large pear-shaped appearance. Under its smooth, beige skin, butternut squash has sweet flesh that makes excellent soups and stews.
Buttercup squash: This small round squash has dark green skin with grey marks. Its orange flesh is slightly sweet and not fibrous. Due to its round shape, it can easily be stuffed.
Acorn squash: Its name says it all. Its pale flesh tastes like pepper and hazelnut as its acorn shape suggests. Acorn squash is generally served grilled as a side dish. Its skin is dark green to white and has vertical ridges.
Hubbard squash: They look like elongated lemons with thick, rough skin that ranges from gray/blue to bright orange. On the somewhat less sweet side, Hubbard squash flesh is highly versatile.
Spaghetti squash: One of the most popular squashes. It has an oval shape and yellow skin with sweet, very fibrous flesh. Once cooked, you can scrape it with a fork to get squash spaghetti.<
Stripetti squash: Spaghetti squash’s cousin, its skin is green with yellow and/or beige longitudinal stripes. Cook it as you would a spaghetti squash.
Dumpling squash: Dumpling squash is shaped like acorn squash and can have different colours, such as white, green, yellow or orange. Its edible skin has light or dark stripes and spots. You can eat them grilled in quarters and lightly seasoned.
Aladdin Squash: Often compared to Aladdin’s turban, this one seems to be two squashes merged into one. Its mild, sweet flavour makes it excellent for desserts or curries. The shelf life champion, it can be kept for up to a whole year.
Winter Squash and Your Health
Increasingly, scientists are curious about the benefits of these all-around delicious fruits. Squashes have a mild, sweet flesh and are full of healthy nutrients.
Antioxidants: Winter squash’s greatest asset is undoubtedly its antioxidant content. Antioxidants maintain cell health and protect our bodies against many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases. Worldwide, squash is the food that provides the most antioxidants.
Carotenoids: Carotenoids are orange pigments rich in vitamins C and A, which are found in some fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, oranges, and squash. These molecules are well known for their protective effect against cancer and strengthening the immune system.
Carbohydrates: Most of the carbohydrates in squashes are polysaccharides (a type of sugar). These substances are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic.
Winter Squash: Baking and Cooking
The first step is always to cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.
Diced: Peel the squash and dice the flesh into ½- to 1-inch cubes that can be steamed, sautéed or grilled in the oven.
Puree: Put halved squashes face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 °F. The squash will be tender and easy to empty.
Seed Preparation: Spread washed and dried seeds on a baking sheet and roast at 350 °F for 15 to 20 minutes. Doing it this way helps maintain the integrity of the beneficial oils in the seeds.
Eating winter squash from organic farming is crucial. In conventional agriculture, squash is often used to pull specific contaminants out of the soil, which (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs) end up in the fruit.
This fall, La Boite à Grains offers a wide variety of certified organic winter squash. Come into the store and stock up!
Véronique Cousineau, ND, NHN