I don’t know about you, but during the winter months I always look forward to enjoying a meal that makes you think it isn’t winter. And I can think of only one way that can happen, making a dish using some fruit or veggie that has been stored or preserved to keep its fresh and delicious goodness. Winter squash is a veggie (techincally a fruit, but we won’t go there right now) that warms up the kitchen, saturates the air with a sweet rich aroma, and satisfies the craving for a healthy, fresh-from-the-farm meal. Winter squash is considered a starchy food, but it is also very high in sugars and over time the starches will convert themselves to sugars, making the squash that much sweeter. How sweet is that?! They are called winter squash for the shere fact that, if stored properly, they can keep through the winter months until you are ready to eat them.Storing Squash
To store winter squash I first suggest you buy squash at the peak of the season, which is about the end of September, just before the first frost here in Newaygo. At the peak you will be able to get the highest quality squash – fully mature and if any squash had been bruised or cut, signs of imperfections would be highly visible by now.
Spreading the squash out in a dark room with a regulated temperature of about 50°F, will keep those babies in good condition through the winter months. Keep an eye on them, if their is a bad spot coming decide on a squash meal that week… just cut away the bad spot and roast in the oven or peel the skin off and cook on the stove top like you would for mashed potatoes.Top 5 Winter Squash
Butternut are one of the most sought after squash. They have smooth tan skin (tanner the skin, the better tasting it will be!) and resemble the shape of a peanut. The name butternut refers to its moist, buttery flesh that has a slight nuttyness. Butternut bruise easily so if you decide to try to keep these over the winter you need to be as gentle as possible.
Acorn are probably the most well-known squash out there. Although they have a dark green skin, unlike an actual acorn oak nut, the shape does resemble that of an acorn. The yellow flesh is moist and a bit stringy with a deep nutty flavor. Acorn keep well into the winter. Look for acorn that have a bright orange patch. This orange patch is a sign that the acorn was well-matured when picked off the vine and will have the best chance to store for a long period.
Buttercup probably have the richest flavor of any squash, very similar to a sweet potato, but much drier with a definite squashy squash flavor. The buttercup is so-called because it has a cup-shaped button on the bottom; something like an upside-down bowl attached to an upside-down tea-cup. Buttercup do not store as well as other winter squash, but they can keep into January.
Spaghetti squash are yellow skinned and oval in shape. They have a very stringy flesh, reminiscent of, yes, you guessed it, spaghetti noodles. The flavor is very subtle (like pasta is) so it works well in place of many pasta dishes. Spaghetti squash are the first winter squash we pick and because that is the case, they almost never keep through the month of November.
Last but not least are Heart of Gold. Pretty name, no? It is my favorite squash because of many reasons, but mostly because of its unique flavor and sweetness. It is a type of acorn squash and that is evident by its shape. The skin is mostly white with dark green striping, which resembles its other parent, the sweet dumpling squash. It is a good keeper, similar to acorn.
TIP: A very simple way to prepare winter squash is to cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, lay flesh side down on a foiled cookie sheet, and bake at 375° for an hour and a half.