Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
Winter squash are prominently displayed at grocery stores in the fall and winter months, but many shoppers pass them by because they don’t know how to prepare them. Winter squash are actually easy to prepare and are a healthy addition to any meal.
Winter squash are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. One-half cup of cooked winter squash has only 40 calories.
Winter squash are picked when they are fully mature and they have a thick, inedible skin. This thick skin provides a protective covering for the squash and allows for a long storage life. Winter squash can be stored for three months or longer in a cool, dry place preferably in a single layer.
Three of the most common winter squash we see in Missouri are butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash.
◦Butternut squash is tan in color and has a long, bell-like shape.
◦Spaghetti squash is oblong or oval in shape and yellow in color.
◦ Acorn squash is actually shaped like an acorn. It is dark green in color and has a ridged rind or skin.
When shopping, look for squash that are heavy for their size, free of soft spots and have a dull sheen (a shiny skin is an indicator the squash is not fully mature).
All winter squash bakes well. Cut the squash in two (be sure to use a sharp, heavy-duty knife due to the hard shell), scoop out the seeds and brush the cut surface with oil. Place the cut side down in a baking dish with 1/4 cup of water. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F until the flesh is soft.
All types of winter squash can be baked in the same way, but not prepared the same.
◦Once the butternut or acorn squash is cooked and cooled, it can be peeled away from the skin, cut into cubes, and used in soups, stews and casseroles along with other vegetables. Butternut or acorn squash can be used interchangeably in recipes.
◦Spaghetti squash is the exception. Once it is cooked, use a fork to peel the flesh away from the skin. It looks just like spaghetti as it peels away. You can serve it with any type of pasta sauce, in the same way you would serve spaghetti noodles.