Nothing will get you into the holiday spirit like a colorful addition to the family table, and squash certainly gets that job done. Because there are so many varieties and uses, you should be utilizing squash as much as possible this season.
Not only is squash easy to grow (even if you don’t have a green thumb), but it’s typically very easy to find at local farmers’ markets this time of year too. Whether you want to grow different varieties on your own, or you just want to know more about this incredible, versatile vegetable, we’ve got you covered for all things squash throughout the winter.
Know Before You Grow
Squash is a hardy vegetable, which is why it’s meant to be enjoyed in the fall and winter. Even if you’re new to gardening, you can successfully plant and grow different varieties of squash, and most people see success because it’s such a resilient crop.
If you do want to plant squash, there are a few tips that can help to make your growing endeavors a greater success, including:
- Providing the right growing environment with full sun
- Giving the plants plenty of moisture
- Using high amounts of organic matter in your growing efforts
- Starting plants indoors before transplanting to a garden
- Surrounding them with mulch to help with moisture drainage
When it comes time to harvest your squash crop, it’s important to check on them every day. Your plants will likely grow fast and you might be able to harvest a few beautiful squashes each day once they are fully grown. Winter squash should never be harvested before it is fully matured and ripened though, so keep a close eye.
What Are the Benefits of Squash?
There is a variety of winter squashes to choose from, and each of them stands out in their own way when it comes to nutritional benefits.
Butternut squash is, perhaps, the most widely-known variety. It’s popular because of its versatility and sweet taste, but it also provides 457% of your daily value of Vitamin A in just one serving! It’s also rich in Vitamin C and potassium.
Spaghetti squash, another popular option for those looking for delicious side dishes or pasta replacements, contains high amounts of Vitamin A, C, and B as well. Acorn squash has similar benefits, with even greater levels of potassium that can help to maintain healthy blood pressure.
There aren’t as many fresh winter vegetables available as there are in the summer. So, it’s important to make as much fresh produce as possible a part of your diet during the colder months.
Taking Advantage of Varieties
One of the best things about squash is that there are so many different varieties. Not only does that give you growing options, but it gives you an endless colorful selection to choose from for all of your delicious dishes this season.
Certain cooking techniques are better for some squash varieties than others. You’ll find most people prepare squash by boiling, baking, or steaming it, but the cooking method you choose should be a compliment to the taste and texture of the squash. After all, you wouldn’t want to try making a butternut squash soup with a spaghetti squash any more than you would want to use acorn squash for a pasta-like dish.
Preparations for winter squash tend to be the same no matter which variety you choose, including washing and drying it thoroughly. From there, you can decide whether you want to peel it and/or cut it before cooking it. That usually depends on the variety:
- Butternut squash: You can cut and peel butternut squash before cooking or simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, roast it and scoop out the cooked flesh. (If you are looking for a faster cook time, try slicing the squash in rings and roasting on a pan.)
- Buttercup squash: This flat, round squash isn’t as sweet as butternut, but it can be used in many of the same recipes and prepared the same way.
- Spaghetti squash: Perhaps one of the most unique varieties, spaghetti squash can be cut in half and roasted. Once it’s cooked, you can scoop the flesh out with a fork and it will look like long strands of pasta.
- Acorn squash: This is a nuttier squash variety that works best when it is baked or roasted. By cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds, you can stuff the center with anything from rice to other casserole-like fillings for a healthy and hearty meal.
- Delicata squash: This is a long, beautiful variety that is often referred to as “sweet potato squash” thanks to the similarities in taste and texture. Delicata squash can be used in place of butternut squash or sweet potatoes in most recipes, or just served as a roasted side dish (try leaving the skin on too!).
As you can see, there are many different ways to enjoy squash this season. So, whether you’re growing your own or you just picked some up at the market and you’re wondering what to do with it, don’t be afraid to get creative with your recipes! No matter how you use it, you’ll reap the health benefits and enjoy the naturally sweet and nutty flavors of this traditional cold-weather vegetable.
Ready to take advantage of all things squash this season? Join us and over 30 local businesses and farmers as we kickoff the indoor market season on November 5, 2022 at Old Trail School. Not only are we welcoming the winter farmers’ market season, we’re hosting the annual Squash Showcase and Tasting Event to really celebrate the season. See you there!
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.