There are many varieties of winter squash and all are great choices for low fat dinner and menu options. Relatively easy to prepare and serve, winter squash stores well.
Winter squash can be found in a myriad of colors, shapes, textures and flavors. While they are available year round, they are especially great as a side dish for fall and winter baked dishes. Since they have a sweeter flavor profile than summer squash, they are suited for sweeter dishes. The winter squash varieties with darker, more orange colored flesh will have more beta carotene than the lighter and whiter squash. All winter squash tend to be low in fat and as long as the pats of butter and toppings are kept to a minimum, winter is a healthy choice as a vegetable side dish.
All winter squash will have a thick and hard skin. The thinner skinned varieties can be peeled with a sharp paring knife. Otherwise, they are most often prepared by cutting in half with a heavy chef’s knife or heavy cleaver. Once the seeds are scooped out the halves can be placed cut side down and baked until tender. To test for doneness, a fork can be poked into the halves.
Five Different Varieties Of Winter Squash
- Acorn– Acorn squash has a distinctive acorn shape, with deep ridges going up and down. It’s flesh is an orange color, although some varieties have white or yellow flesh.
- Hubbard– Hubbard squash can be found large teardrop shapes. Their skins are bumpy and warted, making them decorative as well as a great culinary squash. They can grow to be very large and are good pumpkin substitutes.
- Banana– This is considered a ‘specialty’ squash. The flesh has an orange color and they are distinguished by its long, narrow shape. Banana squash can be found with many different colored skins, from pink, blue and gray color shades. They can grow to be very long and have pointed ends.
- Butternut– Butternut squash has a skin that is thin enough to easily peel with a vegetable peeler and is often cut up and added to soups, stews and baked dishes. The butternut squash can be identified with its rounded bottom and long neck.
- Spaghetti– Spaghetti squash is a popular winter squash. Its unique texture makes it great for a side dish or used as a ‘vegetable spaghetti’ with a sauce over the top. When cooked, the light colored flesh can be removed with a fork resembling spaghetti strands.
Purchasing And Storing Winter Squash
Winter squash has a much thicker skin than summer squash, making them easier to store. The skins should be smooth and unblemished. When picked up, all winter squash should be heavier for their size; avoid those that seem to be lighter than the rest. They can be stored at room temperature, but prefer temperatures of around 50 to 55 degrees F.