Friday, October 4, 2013

The Different Types of Squash

Every year in the fall when the weather changes, it seems like my taste buds change with it. The summer heat makes me want, cold and light beverages, fruits, sweet corn, and all the summer foods that are in season. Come the fall, my interest in those items has run its course.

The change in the weather brings about an opportunity to enjoy new food and beverage for a season. And that starts with fall and winter squash for me. Acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash are especially my favorites and really, very easy to prepare. There is a little bit of work involved, but overall I think squash gets a bad reputation as being difficult to prepare. Because of that, and it's seasonality, you don't find squash on too many restaurant menu's.

We can't wait to start working with squash. You will soon see items on our menu, like pear and butternut squash soup, pumpkin ravioli with sage butter and acorn squash and currently like ourside dish special, spaghetti squash topped with bolognese sauce and reggianno parmesan cheese. It's like a homemade hearty meal in itself!

All this menu planning towards some fall dishes, led to thinking of all the different squashes there are, and there are many! We highlighted a few of our favorites below. Now all you have to do is pick the one you want and experiment with how to prepare it. Look, you learn by doing. And, I think with most squash, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and good it really can be. Give it a try. 

For a quick reference guide of the various types of squash (including some you may not have realized fall into this category), read on:

Banana Squash
Available year-round, but peak season lasts summer through early fall

Ranging from 2 to 3 feet in length, the log-shaped banana squash has a pale cream- or
peach-colored exterior and golden, cantaloupe-colored flesh. It averages 10 to 12 pounds, although grocers often sell it in more manageable cuts. It is common for banana squash in home gardens to grow up to 40 to 50 pounds or more.

Butternut Squash

Available year-round, but peak season lasts summer to early fall.

A creamy-colored gourd with a bottleneck shape, the butternut squash is one of the more common varieties of squash. It tastes like a nuttier version of the sweet potato and can be baked or steamed.

Acorn Squash
Available year round, although the all-white or all-yellow acorn squash peak late August to December.

Green, gold and white. Known for its compact size, one squash provides one (generous) or two portions. The defined ribs make an attractive vessel: the halves can be hollowed out after baking and used as decorative bowls for mashed squash, squash soup, rice or stuffing. Naturally sweet and slightly fibrous, acorn squash can be substituted for buttercup squash, which is generally drier, or butternut squash, which is nuttier.

Available year-round.

One doesn't often think of a cucumber as a type of squash, but it most certainly is. Cylindrical and green, cucumbers are popular choices for added crispness to salads, snacks, sushi rolls or sandwiches. When cooked they are tender; their taste is mild unless pickled. They are equally refreshing in soups, as a puréed sauce, and in ethnic dishes like the Greek cucumber and yogurt salad, tzatziki and in Indian raita (see recipes for both of these dishes). There are different varieties of cucumbers, but the main difference lies in the skin and seeds. An old wives’ tale has it that either the seeds or bitter skin causes people to burp, which is why “burpless” varieties were developed with thin skins and virtually no seeds.

Carnival Squash

Available year-round, but is best late summer through early fall.

The beautiful carnival squash has a festive pattern with brush-like stripes of deep orange and specks of green. The meat inside is a
golden yellow color similar to butternut squash and golden sweet potatoes, and is even creamier and sweeter.

Delicata Squash or Sweet
Potato Squash
Available year-round, it is best late summer through early fall.

The oblong delicata squash has lemon-colored skin streaked with green or orange. The meat is a cross between butternut squash and sweet potato, so much so that it is also called sweet potato squash. It is also known as Bohemian squash.


A gourd is the hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the
plant family Cucurbitaceae, to which squash belong. There are edible gourds (squash), and those non-edible varieties used as vessels, musical instruments and for décor. Gourds are believed to be the earliest plant domesticated by man, in Africa, where they were used as bowls and bottles. The rattling dried seeds inside enable gourds to be used as percussion instruments; even today, gourds are used as resonating chambers on certain stringed instruments and drums, especially in the Caribbean.

Pattypan or Sunburst Squash or Baby Summer Squash

Available year-round, but the peak season is May through August.

These cute, dreidl-like squash come in yellow, green and white. They have scalloped edges and, like most other summer squash, a thin skin and tender meat. They can cook in the microwave, bake in the oven, on the stove, or can be used cooked or uncooked as a charming garnish for any dish.

Spaghetti Squash or
Vegetable Spaghetti
Available year-round. Best season is early fall through winter.

This watermelon-shaped squash is known for flesh that separates into long, blond, spaghetti-like strands as it cooks; the squash lends itself to any recipe that regular spaghetti would. The strands can be used in salads,casseroles or on a plate with sauce. The squash is mellow-tasting with a slight crispness not found in pasta. A novelty the first time one experiences it, it is always fun to halve the squash lengthwise and rake the strands out of the oval shell. The more yellow the rind, the riper the squash.

Available year round, but best in the early fall throughout winter.

Drier, coarser and more strongly flavored than most other squash, pumpkins are harbingers of of autumn, for
Halloween and pumpkin pie. Most people who bake with pumpkin do so with the canned variety due to the time demands of preparing the fresh. And much canned “pumpkin” is a less fibrous variety of squash

Winter Squash
Winter squash is a category of squash that has hard, thick rinds that are not edible. Examples include
pumpkins and acorn squash. The flesh is drier—less moist—than summer squash. Kept in cool, dark places, winter squash will have a shelf life of up to three months.


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