Winter squash is a relative to both melons and cucumbers and comes in many different varieties. Each varies in shape, color, size and flavor but all share some common characteristics. Their shells are hard and difficult to pierce, giving them a long shelf life, between one week and six months. They are sometimes referred to as ‘hard squash’
Some of the different varieties of winter squash:
Winter squash facts:
- they are an important food source of carotenoids
- The linoleic and oleic acid account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds.
- about 90% of the total calories in winter squash comes from carbohydrates
- the starch content of winter squash contain some key health benefits; antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.
- winter squash should always be organic as it has an ability to effectively pull contaminants out of the soil
- agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils since it has the ability to pull out contaminants.
How to Store
- Winter squash is prone to decay, so it is important to carefully inspect it before storing.
- Depending upon the variety, winter squash can be kept for between one week to six months.
- It should be kept away from direct exposure to light and should not be subject to extreme heat or cold.
- The ideal temperature for storing winter squash is between 50-60°F.
- Once it is cut, cover the pieces of winter squash in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for one or two days.
- The best way to freeze winter squash is to first cut it into pieces of suitable size for individual recipes.
Tips for Preparing Winter Squash
- Rinse winter squash under cold running water before cutting.
- All varieties of winter squash require peeling for steaming except Kabocha, acorn and butternut.
- You can peel winter squash with a potato peeler or knife.
- use an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds
- Butternut squash has a unique shape that requires a special approach to cutting. To cut into cubes, it is best to first cut it in half between the neck and bulb. This makes peeling it much easier. Cut bulb in half and scoop out seeds. Slice into 1-inch slices and make 1-inch cuts across slices for 1-inch cubes. This is the best size and shape for steaming.
- If you are baking your squash you don’t have to peel it. Cut the ends off, cut the squash in half lengthwise down the middle, scoop out the seeds and bake. Alternatively you can leave the squash whole, pierce a few times with a fork or tip of a paring knife, bake and scoop out the seeds after it has been cooked. You can peel cooked squash easily with a knife and then cut into pieces of desired size.
- Save those seeds that you scooped out! Seeds from winter squash can make a great snack food, and can be prepared in the same way as pumpkin seeds. Once scooped out from inside the squash and separated from the pulp, you can place the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170°Fin the oven for 15-20 minutes. By roasting them for a relatively short time at a low temperature you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils. Linoleic and oleic acid account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds.
The Healthiest Way of Cooking Winter Squash
- best to steam 1-inch cubes of squash.
- for most types of squash you only need to steam it for 7 minutes.
- Top puréed cooked winter squash with cinnamon and maple syrup.
- Steam cubes of winter squash and then dress with olive oil, soy sauce, ginger and pumpkin seeds.
- Top “strings” of spaghetti squash with pasta sauce.
- Add cubes of winter squash to your favorite vegetable soup recipe.
- Antioxidant Support
- Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
- Promotes Optimal Health
- Potential Blood Sugar Regulation Benefits
- Cardiovascular Health
Excellent source of
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
A very good source of
- Vitamin B6
Good source of
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B2
- omega-3 fatty acids
- Winter squash is not a commonly allergenic food, is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines
- not included in the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” as one of the 12 foods most frequently containing pesticide residues.