As I walked into the supermarket the other day, I was greeted by a veritable kaleidoscope of different types of squash on display. Their unique shapes and pretty colors prompted me to take out my camera and snap a picture!
As the days get shorter and colder, it seems that our menus change. Fresh summer fruits and vegetables get replaced with the autumn vegetables that have just been harvested. If you have a garden, the last vegetables to be picked are probably the different varieties of squash.
You’ve probably heard the terms “summer” and “winter” when referring to squash. This terminology dates back to a time when squash and other foods were kept in cool cellars to be used later. “Winter squash” and “winter vegetables” will keep well into December if they are stored properly in a cool, dry and dark place. That is the reason for the name winter.
There are several varieties of “summer squash.” Zucchini is probably the most well-known variety. These squash are usually ready for eating before the seeds or skins have toughened. You can eat the whole vegetable, skin and all.
Winter squash, on the other hand, has a much harder skin and usually has a much more intense flavor and smell. Winter squash includes: acorn, banana, butternut, buttercup, carnival, gold nugget, hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumpling and turban.
I spent quite a bit of time standing at that squash display and looking at all the different varieties that were there. The most common way of serving squash is probably in a smooth dollop, much like mashed potatoes. However some of these less common types of squash and ways of serving them might be fun to try, too. Here are a few ideas to try when you come upon the squash bin at the supermarket or the display at the farmer’s market and want to try something a little different:
Sweet Dumpling Squash
This little squash looks like a miniature pumpkin, but is cream-colored with green specks. It could be stuffed or baked as an individual serving. It weighs about six – eight ounces and has a mild, sweet taste.
When this squash has been baked, you can use a fork to rake out the “spaghetti-like” stringy flesh. This is a bigger squash (three – five pounds). To cook this type, cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and bake until tender.
The flavor of this squash is more “nutty” and it’s quite ornamental. It has a bulb-like cap (turban) on the blossom end. You might want to try cutting off the top and hollowing it out and serving a squash or harvest soup in the shell.
The aroma of baking squash reminds me of harvest on the farm; it has such a distinctive aroma. It also reminds me of Thanksgiving and all the good foods associated with that meal. If you enjoy squash, now is a great time to stock up and buy ahead for those holiday meals that are just around the corner.