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Winter Squash: Selecting, Nutritional Information, Home Canning & Freezing Instructions and Recipes!

Winter squash comes in many varieties and sizes. Choosing a winter squash that meets your needs and the taste you will like can be tough without a guide!  This page provides you that information, plus nutritional analysis and links to our freezing and canning pages!

Unlike its summer squash, which is best when harvested very young and used right away, winter squash is harvested at a mature age, which makes the outer skin hard and inedible. The skin, however, is protective and increases its storage life. Winter squash can be stored for 3 months or longer if kept in a cool dark place, like a basement or garage.  I've had winter squash last a full year when stored like this!

The yellow and orange flesh of the winter squash is more nutritious and richer in vitamins, especially beta carotene, than summer squash. Winter squash is always served cooked and, because of its tough skin, only the inside flesh is eaten. The flesh, is sweet and great to make pie (pumpkins are a winter squash). 

Nutritional content of winter squash

Here are three very popular winter squashes

Acorn Squash
Serving Size: 1/2 cup baked (103g)

Amount Per Serving
Calories 60
Calories from Fat 0

  % Daily Value
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 15mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
  Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
  Sugars  -g  
Protein 1g  
Vitamin A  8%
Vitamin C 20%
Calcium 4%
Iron 6%
Butternut Squash
Serving Size: 1/2 cup baked (103g)

Amount Per Serving
Calories 40
Calories from Fat 0

  % Daily Value
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
  Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
  Sugars 2g  
Protein 1g  
Vitamin A  230%
Vitamin C 25%
Calcium 4%
Iron 4%
Hubbard Squash
Serving Size: 1/2 cup baked (103g)

Amount Per Serving
Calories 60
Calories from Fat 5

  % Daily Value
Total Fat 0.5g 1%
Saturated Fat 10g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 4%
  Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
  Sugars  -g  
Protein 3g  
Vitamin A  140%
Vitamin C 20%
Calcium 2%
Iron 4%
*Note serving size differences; a Fruits & Veggies—More Matters serving is 1/2 cup of cooked squash.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Choosing a winter squash

Winter squash comes in many sizes, shapes and colors.

Size:

Choose a size based on your cooking needs. There's no difference in flavor based on size of the same variety of a squash.

Appearance:

For a quality squash, choose one that has a smooth, dry rind and is free of cracks or soft spots. Skin that is easily nicked or scraped with a fingernail means that the squash did not reach maturity. Look for rind that has a dull appearance. A shiny rind indicates that is has been picked too early or has a wax coating, which masks the skin. Choose squash that has a deep color and is heavy for its size. It is also best to choose squash with a firm, rounded, dry stem. Squash with no stem permits bacteria to enter.

Cut pieces can be found in the grocery market. Choose pieces that have a good interior color and finely-grained flesh that is not fibrous. Ideal flesh should be barely moist, but not too dry or too watery.

Storing Winter Squash

Winter squash has a long shelf life and can be stored for up to 3 months or longer in a cool, dry place between 55° and 60°F. A higher temperature will shorten storage time, but it will not alter the flavor. Storage temperatures below 50°F (as in a refrigerator) will cause squash to spoil more rapidly. If the squash needs to be refrigerated, it can be stored for 1 to 2 weeks. Cut pieces of squash should be tightly wrapped and refrigerated. Cooked, pureed squash can be frozen for use later as a side dish or to thicken, color, or flavor soups, sauces, or stews.

Varieties of Winter Squash

Photo of acorn squash Acorn
This acorn-shaped squash is one of the most widely available among the small winter squash. It measures about 6 inches around and weighs 1 to 2 pounds. Baking is an excellent way to bring out the sweet, nutty flavors of this tender fleshed squash.
Photo of banana squash Banana
This squash comes in three varieties: blue, orange, and pink. Among the three varieties, the pink banana is the most common in the United States. It is grown commercially in Florida. This large, thick-skinned cylindrical squash averages 20 inches long and weighs around 12 pounds. It is so large that it is usually sold in chunks instead of whole. Its creamy textured orange flesh offers a fruity and buttery delight to your palate. Although both baking and steaming are great ways to prepare this tasty squash, steaming produces a slightly sweeter, yet mild flavor.
Photo of buttercup squash Buttercup
This stocky squash is 6 to 8 inches in diameter, averaging 2 to 4 pounds. Its popularity stems from its sweet and creamy orange flesh. Its shortcoming is that it tends to be a bit dry. Baking or steaming can solve this problem; the dry flesh becomes smooth and tastes similar to a mixture of honey, roasted chestnuts, and sweet potato. Even more than baking, steaming softens the flesh and creates a thick puree (Great for pies)
Photo of butternut squash Butternut
This elongated bell-shaped squash measures about a foot long and weighs an average of 2 to 4 pounds. Its popularity is due to its meaty, yet moderately sweet golden orange flesh. Because of its thin skin, this squash can easily be skinned with a vegetable peeler, which makes it easy to cut and prepare. Baking enhances its sweet, moist, and nutty flavors. Butternut squash is usually available from August through March. There are actually many variations of butternut. 
mexican butternut squash My favorite winter squash is one called "Argos Gold", sometimes also simply called "Mexican Butternut" - it is much longer than the usual "Waltham" butternut, often almost 2 feet long and has a much sweeter taste and smoother texture.  I've finally found one supplier, see this page.

I found another winter / butternut-type squash at Gurney's that looks promising .
Photo of hubbard squash Hubbard
This tear-shaped squash comes in several varieties: green (true), golden, blue, and baby blue. It ranges from dark green to orange and weighs from 5 to 50 pounds. Because of its size, hubbard's popularity has decreased over the years. However, pre-cut portions of green and orange hubbard can be found in markets. Green hubbards are thick, sweet, and dry. Golden hubbards—a smaller squash than the green or blue—are fairly sweet, but have a bitter aftertaste.
Photo of spaghetti squash Spaghetti
This oval-shaped yellow squash is also called the vegetable spaghetti. It averages 9 inches in length and may weigh 2 to 3 pounds. When cooked, the crisp, tender fhesh falls a apart into spaghetti-like strands that have a mild lightly sweet and fresh taste. Keep in mind that the larger the vegetable, the thicker the strands and the more flavorful the taste. It really is good with spaghetti sauce on the cooked squash "noodles"
Photo of sweet dumpling squash Sweet Dumpling
This solid round squash, formerly known as the vegetable gourd, is a perfect serving for one person. It is about the size of an apple and weighs up to 1 pound. The skin is a warm cream color striped with ivy green, and it changes to butter color and orange during storage. The skin is relatively tender and can be eaten. The pale-yellow flesh is smooth, fine, and dry as a potato and produces a rich starchy, light to mild sweetness, with a slight corn flavor.

Cooking Winter Squashes

Baking
This popular cooking method brings out the sweet flavor of the squash by caramelizing some of the sugars. Cut squash lengthwise in half and remove the seeds and strings. Large squash can also be cut into serving-size pieces if preferred. Place squash, cut-side down in a baking pan lined with foil. Pour 1/4 inch of water in the pan, cover with foil, and bake at 350°F to 400°F. Bake halved squash for 40 to 45 minutes and cut pieces for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.

Boiling
This technique is a faster method of cooking, but it dilutes the flavor slightly. Peel squash and cut it into pieces. Place pieces in a small amount of boiling water, and cook approximately 5 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Microwaving
Prepare squash by cutting it in half lengthwise or in large chunks. Place squash cut-side down in a microwavable dish, cover, and cook until tender. Halved pieces usually cook in 7 to 10 minutes and large chunks in 8 minutes.

Sautèing
Using a nonstick pan, sautè grated, peeled, or diced squash in a broth. Sautéing gives the squash, especially if grated, a slightly crunchy texture. Cooking time usually lasts 8 to 10 minutes.

Steaming
Halve squash lengthwise and place cut-side down in a vegetable steamer. Cook over boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes or until the flesh becomes tender. Squash can also be peeled and cut into chunks or slices for steaming.

 


Other Picking Tips

[General picking tips and a guide to each fruit and vegetable] [How much do I need to pick? (Yields - how much raw makes how much cooked or frozen)] [Selecting the right varieties to pick] [All about apple varieties - which to pick and why!]  [Picking tips for Vegetables] [ Strawberry picking tips] [ Blueberries picking tips]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes

All About Home Canning, Freezing and Making Jams, Pickles, Sauces, etc. ] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications to download and print]