Winter squash is harvested very late into the fall, eaten in its mature fruit stage, and has a longer storage potential—all unlike its summer equivalent. In addition, all varieties of winter squash provide an irresistible variety of conventional nutrients. Winter squashes usually grow as vines and are designated as "weak-stemmed tender annual vines" with large cucumber-like leaves.
They also come in a dazzling array of sizes, shapes, and hues. Those of you seeking to vary your meals while maintaining good nutrition and honoring organic and local traditions (that just might be all of us) would be well-served to do some experimenting with these robust vegetables. So, the next time you feel a craving for something new, squash it.
8 Varieties of Winter Squash
1. Acorn Squash
Look for its ridged green skin with speckled orange patches and pale yellow-orange flesh--all in an acorn shape that tapers at one end. Sweet, nutty, and peppery at the same time, acorn squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Makes for a warming winter soup.
2. Banana Squash
It may be somewhat shaped like a banana usually with a bright yellowy (thick) skin but this winter squash is much, much bigger...reaching upwards of 70 pounds. Its moist and hearty flesh contains a very high water content and plenty of beta carotene. Delicious with a red onion sauté.
Imagine something that looks like a large pear with cream-colored skin while delivering a deep orange-colored flesh and sweet flavor and you'd have the popular butternut squash. A good source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, and potassium and an excellent source of vitamin A, butternut squash rocks with tofu, coconut milk, and toasted almonds.
Rich in vitamin A, the oblong delicata has creamy beige skin with dark green stripes. Its mild taste is ideal for a bisque.
This large squash can grow up to 50 pounds and is usually dark green, grey-blue, or orange-red in color. A low sodium treat with plenty of vitamins A and C, try your hubbard with a vegetable and rice stuffing.
A gourd-like squash that can range from the size of an apple to 500 pounds, the pumpkin is a major part of American culture thanks to its association with Halloween. About 99% of pumpkins marketed domestically are used as "jack-o'-lanterns. Its famous orange color lets you know it's a great source of beta carotene. In addition, pumpkins also provide a fair amount of vitamin C and other nutrients, such as niacin, vitamin E, calcium, and iron. And don't neglect the myriad health benefits found in pumpkin seeds. Needless to say, pumpkins make a delicious pie.
The cylinder shaped spaghetti squash ranges from 4 to 8 pounds and when cooked, its flesh forms spaghetti-like strands (hence the name). A good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, try it in a casserole.
Green in color and either speckled or striped, this winter squash has an orange-yellow flesh whose taste is reminiscent of hazelnuts. It's name is derived from the knob that forms at its top. Turbans are high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. When cooking, keep it simple by baking or steaming.