Winter Squash Guide | Differentiate the Local Varieties

Use this winter squash guide to select the vegetable that will work best in your next culinary masterpiece.

By Jolyon Helterman

Sep 29 2016

Winter Squash
Winter Squash Guide | Differentiate the Local Varieties


Acorn: A supermarket standard, acorn squash has smooth flesh that turns sweet, nutty, and tender when baked. Its ridged surface makes it difficult to peel, so the best way to prepare it is halved or quartered, topped with butter, plus brown sugar or maple syrup, and roasted.

Butternut: Thanks to its smooth, elongated shape and easier-to-remove peel, the ‘Waltham Butternut’ (named for the Massachusetts city where it was first grown) is one of the most user-friendly and popular winter squashes in the country. The flesh is smooth, fine, and sweet, making it an excellent addition to purees–though it’s equally good sliced or cubed and steamed or roasted.

Delicata: True to its name, the petite delicata has a thin skin that becomes very tender when cooked. The flesh is creamy, with a sweet, corn-like flavor. Roast it to use in pastas or salads, or sautee slices in butter or olive oil until brown and caramelized.

Hubbard: Big, blue-gray, and bumpy, Hubbards are the blue whales of the squash world, with their large size and extra-thick skins. That can make these gourds unwieldy, but home chefs who take the time to break them down (or who buy them pre-cut) will find the flesh sweet and tender when cooked. Steamed, it makes a great addition to soups and pies.

Kabocha: A relatively new arrival, this variety has been grown in southeast Asia for hundreds of years. Beginning in the 1500s, it became especially popular in Japan and eventually made its way east through California to New England. Look for it at farmers’ markets. Its flesh is even finer than the butternut’s, with the dry texture of a baked potato. It’s about as sweet as a yam, and its relatively tender skin means that it doesn’t need peeling.

Spaghetti: Large and golden, the spaghetti squash is best known for its stringy texture, which, when cooked, takes on a noodle-like appearance. Look for bright skin color. Cook until the flesh is tender and easy to “rake” with a fork; then combine it with seasonings, sauces, meats, or other vegetables, as you would pasta.

How to Store Winter Squash
Winter squash may be stored for as long as three to six months, depending on the variety, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to rot. Look for squash that feels firm and heavy for its size, with no soft spots or areas of visible decay. The rind should be hard and dull, not glossy. For best results, store in a cool, dry place (the ideal temperature is around 50*F), or cook, mash, and freeze the flesh in zip-top bags.

Winter Squash | The Flavor of Fall

This post was first published in 2012 and has been updated.