Saying goodbye to summer’s basil, tomatoes, and sweet corn can be hard, but autumn brings an entirely new crop of fantastic fruits and vegetables. Chief among them are hardy, nutritious, and versatile squashes. There are a lot of choices among them, but here’s some helpful information about a few of the more common varieties.
Named because they’re shaped like giant acorns, acorn squashes have a tough, dark green outer skin and deep yellow or orange flesh. The skin on an acorn squash can be difficult to remove, but it’s edible and contains extra fiber, so it’s fine to simply leave it on. Dietary fiber improves digestive health, reduces cholesterol levels, and can help with weight control.
One cup of cooked, cubed acorn squash has 9 grams of fiber, and is a good source of folate, vitamin C, and calcium. The squash’s nutty flavor and somewhat dense texture pair well with brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, bacon, garlic, or Parmesan. Roasting successfully brings out the squash’s flavor and texture, but you can also cook it by steaming, boiling or microwaving.
The thin, beige skin is easy to peel away before or after cooking to reveal the squash’s deep orange flesh. Less stringy in texture than other types of squash, butternuts have a creamy texture when baked or roasted, so once pureed, they also make a great base for soups and stews.
A snap to prepare, delicata squash is the perfect autumn food for busy cooks. Simply slice off the stem, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, slice into half-moons and roast, bake or steam the slices. The beige-and-green skin is thin and edible, and the light yellow flesh works well in pastas, casseroles or on its own.
One cup of cooked delicata squash has just 40 calories, and nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A.
Shaped like a small pumpkin but with a dark green exterior, kabocha squash is a Japanese variety that is gaining popularity in the United States. The light orange flesh tends to be drier and flakier than other types of squash. Use pureed kabocha for soups and stews or whole chunks as a side with butter and brown sugar.
Like delicata, kabocha squash offers close to 100 percent of the RDA of vitamin A and has just 40 calories per cup.
And don’t throw those seeds away! You can rinse, pat dry, and oven-roast almost all winter squash seeds for a crunchy snack that’s high in protein, copper, iron, and zinc.
Most winter squashes are shelf-stable, so even if you don’t use them immediately, they’ll stay fresh for weeks in a cool, dry place while you plan upcoming menus. Take a sample of varieties home from your local market or grocery store – both your health and your tastes buds will thank you!