Know your winter squash

This article was originally published in October 2011

Varied in color and often wacky in shape, winter squash is versatile, chock-full of flavor and a pleasant addition to so many dishes. Generally, winter squash can be substituted in recipes calling for pumpkin or sweet potato. It easily adapts to soups, stews, pilafs or pies — satisfying concoctions that make winter warm.

Rents Due Ranch in Stanwood, Wash. provides us with the majority of our winter squash, so it’s local and organic to boot!

Get to know your squash

Acorn — Try its sweet, nutty, peppery flavor oven-roasted with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, fresh herbs or filled with a wild rice stuffing.

Butternut — This gently sweet squash is a pleasure pureed in soups, roasted with various spices as a side dish, or roasted and added to salads for a flavor boost.

Delicata — This squash tastes like a combination of corn, butternut squash and sweet potato.

Hubbard — This grainier, less sweet squash is tasty boiled, baked or mashed with butter and seasonings, or pureed into soups.

Kabocha — The rich, sweet flavor of this squash tastes divine tempered with soy sauce, ginger and other seasonings from Asia.

Spaghetti — When cooked, this squash, with a mild, nutlike flavor, separates into strands similar to its namesake noodles, creating a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate alternative to pasta.

Sugar Pie Pumpkin — Much smaller in size than your typical carving pumpkin, this squash is sweeter and perfect for pies and other sweet treats.

Turban — This quirky squash has orange-yellow flesh and tastes slightly like hazelnuts when baked or steamed. Its hollowed-out rind can double as a soup tureen. Or, keep it whole for an easy harvesttime centerpiece.


Winter squash is a great source of heart-healthy vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

And don’t throw out those squash seeds — they boast high levels of the minerals manganese, magnesium and phosphorous, and are easy to roast in the oven for a tasty snack or salad topping!

  • Choose squash that is firm and heavy for its size, free of blemishes with some stem intact.
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to two months.
  • Scrub its skin before cooking.



Chock-full of flavor, winter squash offers a range of texture and color pleasing both to the eye and palate. Generally, winter squash can stand in for pumpkin and sweet potato in recipes. It easily adapts to soups, stews, pilafs, pies — satisfying concoctions that make chilly days warm.

  • Stabilize — Choose a sturdy, heavy knife and make sure it’s sharp. Cut an even slice off the bottom, top and/or sides of the squash so that it stays put during future slicing.
  • Cut and cube — For recipes that call for cubed butternut squash, stabilize the squash, then peel with a sharp or serrated vegetable peeler (or your knife if peeler is not up to the task). Stand the squash up and make one long cut down its middle (tap your knife gently with a rubber mallet if you get stuck). Scrape out seeds (a grapefruit spoon helps), then cube.
  • Roast — For an easier journey, follow PCC Chef Lynne Vea’s lead and preheat your oven to 400º F. Stabilize squash. For large butternut, cut it crosswise into wheels; for small butternut and most other squashes, cut it down the middle. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each half so it won’t rock on the baking sheet. Coat with vegetable oil, then roast until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the squash. Allow to cool slightly, scrape out seeds, then slice, cube or puree.
  • Roast whole — Rinse squash. Set in pan and place in 350º F oven. Bake until easily pierced with a fork, about 60 minutes. Halve at once; scoop out seeds. Cool to lukewarm and scoop out flesh or cut into sections. This method works well for especially stubborn squash like kabocha.

Related reading

Pumpkin seeds: a nutritional powerhouse

PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose speaks in greater depth about pumpkin seeds, their benefits and ways to enjoy them.