At this time of year farmers markets and grocery stores begin to fill up with the tasty treats known as Winter Squash, but many consumers find them intimidating. Here are some helpful hints to take advantage of this autumnal abundance and integrate more winter squash into your diet.
Safety Tips and Storage:
Common Types of Michigan Winter Squash:
Acorn Squash, also called pepper squash, has distinctive longitudinal ridges and sweet, yellow-orange flesh. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a single splotch of orange on the side or top
Nutrition: It is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Folate and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Thiamin, Potassium and Manganese.
Choice: Look for an acorn squash that is heavy for its size with smooth, dull skin and no soft spots. A good balance between green and orange coloring is optimal.
Uses: Acorn squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sautéed or steamed. It may be stuffed with rice, meat or vegetable mixtures. The seeds of the may also be eaten, usually after being toasted.
Buttercup Squash, sometimes referred to as Kobocha, has a turban shape (a flattish top and dark green skin), weighing three to five pounds, and normally heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh.
Nutrition: It is a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.
Choice: Check for a matte appearance to the skin, a smooth, firm texture, and a hollow sound when tapped.
Uses: can be roasted, baked, and mashed into soups, among a variety of filler uses, much like pumpkin. It is extremely popular, especially as a soup.
Butternut Squash has yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer.
Nutrition: It is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.
Choice: Select a squash that has an even cream color, and is firm and heavy for its size.
Uses: Butternut squash is a fruit that can be roasted, toasted, puréed for soups, or mashed and used in casseroles, breads, and muffins. It is often substituted for pumpkin.
Hubbard Squash has a tear-drop shape and is rather unusual looking, commonly with bluish-grey or green skin, but can also be golden.
Nutrition: It is a good source of Thiamin, Vitamin B6 and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.
Choice: If buying whole, chose one that feels heavy for its size with a matte (not glossy) skin. If buying in pieces, choose those with a deep orange flesh that looks firm and fresh-cut
Uses: Prepare it simply by roasting it and topping it with butter and brown sugar or maple syrup, or experiment by using it in dishes such as soup, stew or pie.
Pumpkins are round, with smooth, slightly ribbed skin and typically have deep yellow to orange coloration. White versions are now becoming increasingly popular as well.
Nutrition: It is a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Choice: For cooking purposes, select smaller pumpkins with few blemishes that are heavy for their size and have their stems intact.
Uses: While most commonly thought of for Halloween décor, pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted, and makes a great soup.
Spaghetti Squash is an oblong seed-bearing variety of winter squash. The fruit can range either from ivory to yellow or orange in color. Its flesh is bright yellow or orange.
Nutrition: It is a good source of Vitamin C, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid and Manganese.
Choice: Look for a firm, dry rind that is free of soft spots and cracks.
Uses: Spaghetti squash can be baked, boiled, steamed, and/or microwaved. When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash; when cooked, the flesh falls away from the fruit in ribbons or strands like spaghetti, hence the name. It can be served with or without sauce, as a substitute for pasta. The seeds can also be roasted, similar to pumpkin seeds.
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