Knowing our Winter Squash, even in August

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Knowing our Winter Squash, even in August

The term winter squash is a bit of a misnomer: Harvested in Texas throughout the summer, these hardy vegetables are typically seen in the Fall and keep well throughout the winter months. Chances are, you’ve cooked sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut. Others, such as striped spaghetti, buttercup, kabocha and delicata, aren’t as widely available and we’re happy to have them in the kitchen.

One cup of baked butternut squash is rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Flavors are generally mild-to-sweet, so squash won’t overwhelm other ingredients and can easily be used in your seasonal cooking. And don’t be daunted by winter squash’s size, heft, and tough exterior – it’s well worth the effort! From top to bottom, left to right, they are:

Sweet Dumpling – This whitish-yellow and green squash is small and compact, making it the perfect-size bowl for an individual serving. The flesh tastes like sweet potato, and the skin is edible as well. It’s a perfect substitute in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.

Striped Spaghetti – Take a fork to the inside of a cooked spaghetti squash, and you’ll understand how this variety got its name. When you cook it and scrape the flesh, you’ll get “strings” that closely resemble noodles. It is loaded with nutrients, such as beta-carotene and fiber, and is tender, with just a slight crunch. If you’re in search of a healthy pasta alternative, try this very mild-tasting squash – an excellent side dish or a fun substitute in thin noodle recipes, from Asian to Italian.

Kabocha – The squat, green kabocha—the Japanese word for squash—has a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It’s similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in. Try it in a risotto or roasted with nuts and maple syrup.

Acorn – This mildly flavored squash is named for its acornlike shape. Acorn squash is most commonly baked, but can also be sauteed or steamed. It may be stuffed with rice, meat or vegetable mixtures. The seeds of the squash are also eaten, usually after being toasted. Slice it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast it with butter and brown sugar. Add garam masala for some Asian spice!

Delicata – This particular winter squash, with its pale yellow shading, most closely resembles its summer squash cousins. The thin skin is edible, but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. When cooked, the delicata is creamy, soft and sweet potato-like — although the flavoring is a bit more earthy. Take advantage of its ridges by slicing width-wise to create scalloped circles or halves. Delicata squash roasts well and recipes for it often include onions, cream or rosemary.

Butternut – A slim neck and bulbous bottom give the butternut squash its distinctive bell shape. The muted yellow-tan rind hides bright orange-yellow flesh with a relatively sweet taste. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately. Try it tossed with pasta and mushrooms, or a simple soup with onion, white beans and sage. 

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