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Dec 10, 2007

Winter Squash Primer

Cooler days and nights announce the coming of winter and signal the start of something special — winter squash season! Planted in the early spring and allowed to grow all summer, winter squash is harvested at the mature stage in early autumn before the first frost. Winter squash, also known as hard squash, are available in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. From the tiny deep-orange baby pie pumpkins to the oversized gorgeous blue hubbard, we love them equally for their variety, nutrient value and recipe versatility. Enjoy this seasonal treasure for decoration, eating or both!

Small, deep green or pumpkin-colored squash. Shaped like an acorn, distinguished with deep ridges; golden acorns are the color of pumpkin. A good source of calcium (1 cup of baked acorn squash provides 11% of the RDA for calcium). Excellent baked and drizzled with butter, maple syrup and a pinch of cinnamon. Just halve, removed seeds, sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in about 1/2 inch of water. Bake at 400°F for about 40 minutes, or until skin can be easily pierced with a fork.

Blue Hubbard
Large with a unique, beautiful color. A lovely centerpiece when filled with stuffing.

Round and green with grey coloring. Firm and delicious for a fruity stuffing or chunks in soup.

A bell- or peanut-shaped tan-colored squash with sweet orange flesh. Along with Hubbard squash, butternut contains more than 150% of the RDA for vitamin A. Rich squash flavor for baking or mashing. Delicious when cubed and added to stews with warm-flavored seasonings such as cloves, cardamom, curry, cumin, cayenne and paprika.

A small, cylindrical squash with stripes in green and orange or tan. Also called sweet potato squash. Very sweet for baking. Wonderful cooked and whipped with apple sauce and brown sugar.

Gold Nugget
Tiny pumpkin shape and very firm (cook first, cut later). Sweet, buttery flavor.

A medium large round squash with skin mottled (sometimes even knobby looking) with colors from green to orange. Cooked hubbard squash may be mashed and mixed with sautéed garlic, leeks and sage.

Jade green rind with lighter streaks. A pale orange flesh that is tender, smooth and sweet when cooked. Choose squash that's heavy for its size. Cook as you would acorn squash; ideal for baking and steaming. Before cooking, be sure to halve and remove seeds.

Pie Pumpkins
Smaller than the jack o' lantern pumpkin with tender, sweet orange-colored flesh perfect for pies. Or perhaps a Caribbean-style pumpkin soup with tomatoes, garlic, marjoram, white wine and cinnamon.

Red Kuri
Bright orange with a very hard shell. Hearty, firm flesh is perfect for less sweet recipes.

Spaghetti Squash
Semi-soft and yellow, this large round squash is also known as vegetable spaghetti. When cooked, it separates into thin spaghetti-like strands. Its light, sweet flavor and delicate crunchy bite make it an excellent match for light pasta sauces or, when marinated in vinaigrette and chilled, a perfect addition to salads. Spaghetti squash is very low in calories (one 8-ounce serving contains about 75 calories) and is a good source of complex carbohydrates. Like all winter squash, this variety may be cooked a number of ways: boiled whole, baked whole, "steamed" in halves, or microwaved.

Sweet Dumpling
A very small light-colored squash with dark green stripes , with firm mildly-sweet, rich flesh. Serves one; great baked and stuffed with sautéed peppers and topped with goat cheese.

Colorful and flamboyant for decoration or meal presentation, fairly sweet and good to eat, too.

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Posted: Dec 10, 2007 10:43am


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