May 29, 2023
Master Gardener: Winter squashes provide autumn flavor | Lifestyles | – The Daily News Online

Master Gardener: Winter squashes provide autumn flavor | Lifestyles | – The Daily News Online

The winter squash has been harvested and you might find it on the Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Winter squash is part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes pumpkins and summer squash.

One difference between summer and winter squash is the thickness of the skin. Winter squash is mature when the rind has thickened, while summer squash has a thinner, more tender skin.

Winter squash is harvested and eaten when seeds are ripe, in the mature fruit stage. Most varieties of winter squash can be stored for use throughout the winter or at least for several months.

Winter squash comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Those tough, outer skins can be bumpy or smooth, thin or thick.

When buying winter squash, always pick one that feels heavy for its size and has a stem attached. Avoid any with cuts, punctures or moldy spots on the rind.

Butternut squash is said to be the sweetest winter squash. The taste and texture is somewhat similar to sweet potatoes.

Beige colored and shaped like a bell, butternut squash usually weighs between 2 and 5 pounds. The bright orange flesh is thick, but more watery than other squash.

Pick a butternut that is more orange in color, as it should be riper and sweeter. Butternut will keep up to three months.

“Honeynut” is a mini butternut squash that gets about 5 inches long, with each fruit weighing up to one pound. The rind starts out a dark green, turning tan, and at full maturity it’s a burnt orange color. The dense, orange flesh has a richer and sweeter flavor because it’s more concentrated.

Acorn squash are roundish with even grooves around the entire squash. ark green with occasional splotches of orange, the fruit weighs between 12 ounces and 2 pounds.

Avoid squash with too much orange, as they tend to be tougher and more fibrous. The mildly sweet and nutty yellowish orange flesh is perfect for baking, roasting, sautéing or even microwaving. Store for up to one month.

“Mashed Potato” is an acorn squash with a bright, white rind and white flesh that is low in sugar. The 2.75-pound fruits take on the appearance of mashed potatoes when cooked and fluffed.

“Baked Potato” is another variety of acorn squash that has a sweet, nutty flavor. Butternut-colored 1.5-pound fruits have a tan flesh that is perfect for soup, roasting and pies.

Blue Hubbard squash is a big, teardrop-shaped fruit weighing 15 to 40 pounds. It has a sweet, fine-grained, golden flesh that is good for baking, pies, and soup.

A very hard grey-blue skin allows Hubbard to store for up to six months but makes them challenging to open.

If you have space limitations in the garden or just don’t know what to do with full-sized Hubbard, try “Baby Blue.” This Hubbard squash weighs around 6 pounds and has sweet, fine-grained, yellow-gold flesh.

Buttercup squash are dark green with light-green stripes — or spots — and a distinctive round ridge on the bottom, like a turban. The bright orange, somewhat dry flesh has a very mild flavor and is much sweeter than other types of winter squash. Store whole for up to three months.

Spaghetti squash are oblong, weigh around 3 pounds and are ready to harvest when the skin color changes from cream to buff. Look for larger fruits, as they tend to be more flavorful than smaller ones. Store up to three months.

The flesh looks like noodles after it is cooked and can be a healthy substitute for pasta. One complaint is that the flesh is stringy and too watery.

If you’ve never liked spaghetti squash, try preparing it this way, as recommended by our Master Food Preserver volunteer Catherine J.:

n Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush each half with half a tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Place squash face down on a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Bake 35 to 45 minutes. Squash is easy to shred in the shell or it can be scraped into a bowl.

Winter squash is full of nutritional value. It is a source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, plus vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, niacin, and iron.

The orange-fleshed squashes are an excellent source of beta carotene. The nutrient content varies depending on the variety.

Winter squash should be stored whole, in a dry area where temperatures range from 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not store it in the refrigerator.

If stored at room temperature, depending on the variety, storage time can be reduced from one and a half to three months.

Leave the stems on for best storage as it helps the fruit retain moisture. Use these fruits up first as they will not store well — bruised or cut, without stems, immature, or were outside during a heavy frost.

If you missed our November Garden Talk on “A Harvest of Squash,” you can view a recording of it on our YouTube page. Catherine J., our volunteer master food preserver, shared some great tips and recipes for preparing your bountiful harvest of winter squash.

Have a gardening question?

Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office 10 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays.

You can stop in at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County office at 420 E. Main St. in Batavia.

On the first Tuesday of the month, join the Genesee County Master Gardeners for our lunchtime Garden Talks from noon to 1 p.m.

The program on Dec. 2 will be “Gifts from the Kitchen.” Our volunteer master food preserver will demonstrate some wonderful recipes and ideas that you can use this holiday season.

This free program will be held on Zoom.

People are asked to register at the CCE website events page at to get their personal link. Programs are recorded and posted to the CCE Genesee YouTube page.


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