Autumn Squash: Delicious, Inexpensive, Colorful, and Healthy

Brrrrrr! We are quickly headed toward our first frost in Illinois. The good thing about it is that while most other produce is too tender to weather colder temperatures, squash is a vegetable that is actually known for getting sweeter when it has been “frost kissed.” Squash tends to be pretty hardy, despite falling temperatures. As a result, we have only just begun the most glorious part of the yearly growing cycle – squash season!

This post is sponsored by Garden Spot Vegetable Farm. Located in Princeville, Illinois, owner, Jim Buckley and his family, cultivate 34 acres of vegetables and 375 fruit trees. Garden Spot is a no-spray farm, offering a variety of CSA packages. Check their Facebook page for current programs and options for available produce.

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Picking the Perfect Squash

Winter squash should feel firm, solid, and heavy. You should not see indented (softened) areas on the skin or signs of mold. It should not smell musty. Variations in color are to be expected and a yellow or pale tan spot on the bottom indicates that it was field-ripened. A brown or black area means rot. The stem should be in tact and dry.

Storage Tips

Like potatoes, squash is best stored in a dark, dry, cool area. Temperatures are best between 50-55 degrees. A basement or cellar is fine, but relative humidity levels of over 70 percent encourage the growth of mold. An enclosed front or back porch can be a perfect storage area, as well.

How long does squash stay fresh?

Squash is one of the longer-lasting items in the vegetable family. Safe storage time varies from about four weeks for acorn and delicata squash to as long as six months for heartier varieties like butternut squash.

Keeping it cool and dry will directly impact the freshness of squash.

How do you cook a squash?

If you’ve never done it before, don’t be afraid. It’s actually very easy. Cut the squash in half with a sharp knife. Remove the seeds and then roast on a parchment paper lined pan at 400 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes. Be sure you line your pan with foil or parchment paper! The natural sugars in the squash will caramelize and stick to the pan. Clean up is much easier when you line the pan!

Roast the Seeds 

Roasting the seeds is simple to do and my boys line up to grab handfuls of these goodies. I’m a huge proponent of not wasting food. So, using the seeds, rather than pitching them, definitely appeals to my frugal nature.

Step-by-step Seed Roasting Instructions

  1. Soak the seeds in salt water for a few hours
  2. Drain, removing any extra flesh or strings.
  3. Place on a parchment paper lined pan
  4. Sprinkle with spices or salt. (I like onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika)
  5. Bake at 300 degrees until dried and browned.
  6. Cool completely before moving to longer term storage.

Delicata Squash

Pictured: Delicata Squash

This squash is characterized by its thin outer skin and elongated, striped appearance. This boat-like vegetable just begging to be sliced in half and stuffed with beans or rice. Alternately, you can simply slice into semi-circular half-rounds, adding it to recipes or roasting. It cooks more quickly than other squash varieties and tastes a bit like a sweet potato. It’s also known as peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash.

Delicata Squash Recipes

Acorn Squash

Probably one of the most well-known and beloved varieties of winter squash, acorn squash is wonderfully sweet when roasted. The rounded, almost star-like, shape makes it perfect for stuffing to create an all-in-one meal.

Acorn Squash Recipes

Kuri Squash

Kuri squash is a beautiful thing to behold!  The flesh is a shade or two lighter than the hubbard variety and appears like a cross between a butternut and acorn squash.  The seeds are not connected with stringy material.  I always like this trait in a squash because it makes it easier to save the seeds to toast later. After being roasted, the squash flesh literally melts in your mouth. My kids say it is “buttery”. 

Kuri Squash Recipes

Sweet and Spicy Red Kuri Squash Bowl

This Sweet and Spicy got an enthusiastic two-thumbs up from every member of my family. The white sauce on top is tahini mixed with some fresh lime juice, a few drops of hot sauce, a splash of real maple syrup – then thinned with water to make it the perfect consistency for drizzling over the top of the rice and squash.

Chunky Kuri Squash Marinara Sauce

The 16 year old sous chef and I created this recipe for Chunky Kuri Squash Marinara Sauce two years ago.  Although we used kuri squash, you can sub acorn squash quite successfully. 

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash looks like the grown up cousin of delicata. When it it roasted, the interior separates into long, thin strands which resemble spaghetti. Low carb dieters love to use it as a direct substitute for the actual durum wheat product.

Spaghetti Squash Recipes

Spaghetti Squash Fritters

I must tell the truth. I’ve never been a huge fan of spaghetti squash. I was determined to find a way to love this autumn squash. The sous chef and I did it!

These spaghetti squash fritters are gluten free and egg free, crispy on the outside and silky on the inside. Top them with salsa, marinara sauce, or just eat them plain. They are just, plain good! 

More Spaghetti Squash Recipes

Butternut Squash

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

With a gourd-like appearance, butternut squash has a a large round cluster of seeds at one end and a solid cylindrical mass at the other. Although the exterior skin is rather thick, it can be removed with a sharp knife. If you don’t want to go to that trouble, you can slice it in half, remove the seeds, and then roast. After cooking, the exterior can easily be removed.

Butternut squash is exceptionally easy to freeze. Roast, cube, and transfer to freezer bags. It will keep its shape nicely for use soups, stews, and casseroles during the cold winter months.

Butternut Squash Recipes

Creamy Winter Squash Sauce

Nope! That’s not mac and cheese in the photo! It’s my winter squash sauce, made with butternut squash.That vibrant color tells you that it’s full of antioxidants! But, it’s not full of fat, cholesterol, or salt! Nope! It’s silky smooth, guilt free, and tastes amazing! Serve it over rice, pasta, or come up with your own ideas! 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Your turn!

What’s your fav squash and how do you use it? Let’s chat in the comments. Tell me what you love about winter squash.

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