Fall and Winter Squash

Cucurbita maxima

a.k.a Fall and Winter Squash

This vegetable staple was a basic part of the agricultural system predating the exploration of the Spanish in the ancient Americas.  The squash plant, whose horticultural family dates back 7,000 to 10,000 years ago, archeologists trace its origination to Mexico. The seeds from this plant were saved from each year’s harvest and traded from tribe to tribe throughout South, Central and North America. Today, because of this tradition, our fall cornucopia contains a variety of colors, shapes and sizes which can be used in a variety of ways.  Many of the squash have a sweet to a very sweet, sometimes nutty flavor, and a smooth to a creamy texture when cooked. One of the best qualities they possess is excellent long-term storage when kept in a dry, cool location in the home.  Noted below is information on which squash to choose and how to use:

Small (¼ to 3lbs each-enough for 1 or 2 servings)

Carnival, Acorn, Sugar Loaf, Delicata, Mini-Pumpkin, Sweet Dumpling

Cooked skin is sometimes tender enough to eat. Flesh color ranges from pale yellow to orange.  Flavor ranges from slightly tart to very sweet and nutty. Remove the seed and cook whole or in halves. Thin-walled squash are ideal to cook stuffed.

Small to medium-size (1 to 8 lbs each-small size will feed 2,  medium 4-6)

Sugar Pumpkin, Chinese Pumpkin, Buttercup, Red Kuri, Kabocha

These have thick, dense, fleshy walls and fairly large seed cavities.  Cooked skin is too coarse to eat.  Flesh color ranges from medium orange to deep red-orange.  Flavor spectrum is sweet, nutty, and honey-like.  Texture is creamy.  Remove the seed and cook whole, halved, or in chunks.  Cook independently or with other ingredients, as in stews.  Excellent mashed and pureed, in soups, au gratins, and pies.

Medium to very large (8lbs to 70 lbs each-at least 8-10 servings especially when made into soup)

Hubbard, Banana, Baby Hubbard, Butternut

The walls on the larger varieties are dense and meaty. The seed cavity is small in Butternut, large in Banana and Hubbard.  Cooked skin is inedible.  Flesh color ranges from yellow-orange to deep orange.  Flavors are mellow and slightly buttery to very sweet.  Texture ranges from soft and fibrous to creamy and smooth.  Cook in chunks or slabs.  Cut or scrape cooked flesh from skin; mash, puree, or cut in pieces.  The best for soups and stews.