And did you know there's at least 350 varieties?- and that's just squash commonly grown in North America. Typically, I seek mine out from roadside stands instead of attempting to grow my own.
The reason? Winter squash takes up lots of garden space. They would consume a whole raised bed, if not two. As a gardener, I always consider what I can purchase cheaper than what I can grow.
I prefer to save space for smaller crops.
It's time to highlight eight varieties of squash that you do not want to miss this squashy season!
Not so long ago on a cold winter day, I was craving butternut squash like a mad woman. The price at our local grocery store for one tiny squash was $11. I went into shock mode and didn't end up buying it.
And since squash stores fairly well, don't hesitate to buy now, eat later. In fact, many squash will last until February if stored in a cool, dark place like a basement or garage.
Here's my squashiest tips and a few you have to sample!
Seek out squash that have hard, corky stems still attached; that have deep, vibrant colors; and that have a flat, matte-like finish rather than being glossy and shiny.
Winter squash are best after they've been left to mature fully on the vine. That's why they have harder shells than summer squash. It's also why they are sweeter, starchier and in some cases, stringier.
When cut, the outside should "dew" up with a moist appearance.
Prep - It's easiest to prepare winter squash when you cook them before the skin is removed.
Wash squash thoroughly then use a sharp and heavy vegetable knife to cut open. Use a spoon to scrape out seeds and the grainy fibers.
If a specific recipe calls for peeling the squash first then use a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler for the task.
This is only if you don't have mice, rats, squirrels or other rodent-like creatures residing there. Last year, we ate our last squash in March!
Ever buy winter squash out of season? Pretty much a mortgage payment.
Worth buying in bulk at the local farmer's market and storing for later use. Always keep your eyes peeled at roadside stands where squash range from 50 cents to $2 each. Good buy.
In the oven - Pierce the squash with a knife in several places and bake squash whole, or, slice it in half first removing the seeds and fibers. Place in oven cut side up on a ungreased baking pan or dish.
If baking in half, add roughly 1/4 ounce water to the bottom of the pan. Add a little butter and sprinkle in a little salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes until tender.
On the stove-top - Peel and cut squash into 1-inch cubes. Cover and cook in boiling water 10-15 minutes until squash seems tender when poked with a fork.
To steam, place steamer basket in 1/2 inch water in saucepan or skillet then add squash. Cover tightly and heat until boiling; then reduce heat to low. Steam cubes 7-10 minutes.
In the microwave - Pierce whole squash with a knife in several places to allow steam to escape. Microwave uncovered 5 minutes or until squash feels warm to the touch.
Slice in half; remove all seeds and fibers. Arrange halves, cut-side down in a shallow microwaveable dish. Microwave about 5-8 minutes longer until tender. Let stand 5 minutes.
A-Z Squash Dictionary
Sometimes, the skin will be ivory or orange entirely. The flesh has a mild, if not bland flavor.
In my opinion, acorn squash are more watery, gritty, and stringier than some other varieties of squash. So I like to roast them cut side up putting butter, brown sugar and sometimes a bit of maple syrup in the hollows to add flavor.
Because acorn squash is a little less sweet and more fibrous than some other types of winter squash, it's not my first choice for soup.
The sweet flesh is bright orange with a smooth, dry texture. Yum! Because buttercup squash is a drier squash, you'll want to steam or bake it as both methods of preparation will bring out the sweetness of the flesh and add moisture.
Many substitute buttercup squash in any recipe that calls for sweet mashed potato. Or, you can roast it just like you would an acorn squash with cinnamon, brown sugar and maple syrup.
Buttercup squash works well in soups, muffins, pies and purees. And to be fully transparent with you, I need to add butter and lots of it to buttercup squash otherwise it's too dry for me.
The smooth, tan-skinned squash have moist yellow orange flesh with a subtle nutty flavor. Many people think butternut squash is akin to pumpkin in taste and substitute it in breads and pies.
I just like to mash mine as I would a potato and find I never need to add butter to enhance it. It's perfect just boiled and mashed to my taste buds!
Due to its starchiness butternut squash also makes a great soup too with a bit of onion and a splash of cream. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately.
Delicata squash have a creamy yellow flesh with a slight corn flavor. Because they are smaller than most other types of winter squash, they are easier to carry home from the farmer's market and easier to work with (less seeds, less peeling of the skin.)
Their rich and creamy texture make them scrumptious all caramelized in the oven when roasted, kind of like a sweet potato! Roasting vegetables is the best way to enhance their natural sugars! Tasty.
The tapered shell is dark green, blue-green or even orange-colored with small knobs covering the outside. The flesh is yellow-orange with a more coarse texture and mild flavor.
Every Thanksgiving, I get the nomination to peel the hubbard squash and it takes me about a week. But I love it....warts and all.
Like butternut squash, hubbard squash are great in soups and pies. And there's more than enough of it use it for every cooking project you can dream up!
Their claim to fame is their stringy "spaghettish" flesh that when cooked, can be scraped with a fork into thin, delicate strands that can be used just like pasta.
The nutty, mild flavor has a crunchy texture.
Sweet and mild in flavor, tastes perfect roasted in the oven or mashed.
I love seeing these at roadside stands for 75 cents each!
SECRET CODE: Pumpkin
Mild in flavor, it's a great go-to squash because it's an all-purpose variety. When cooked, it can take on a floury texture that works well in soups, stews, and sauces as a thickener.
Due to its larger size and unique shape makes it difficult to cut. Typically, you want to chop that blossom ended like protrusion off first. Then both that and the round cap can be cut into cubes.
Fun fact? Turban squash shines when baked, roasted, or steamed.
Since turban squash has a mild flavor, consider adding lots of ingredients to enhance the taste including cilantro, nutmeg, cardamom, brown sugar, butter, cream, toasted nuts, pear, apple, chard, corn, kale and parsley.
Just don't damage that silly, delicate cap because it's more likely to rot on you!