Winter squash is high in vitamin A (beta-carotene) and is a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

Winter squash types include...

  • Acorn squash, shaped something like an acorn that tapers at one end, with a dark-green, ridged rind.
  • Banana squash, a large, cylinder-shaped squash with a thick, pale skin and finely textured flesh.
  • Buttercup squash, a squat, dark-green vegetable with lighter stripes and rather dry flesh.
  • Butternut squash, shaped like a long bell with a tan rind and mild flavor.
  • Spaghetti squash, an oval, yellow variety whose mild, pale-yellow flesh forms crisp-textured spaghetti-like strands when cooked.

When selecting winter squash, it is important to choose one that is heavy for its size and has a thick, hard shell. If stored in a cool, dry place, whole winter squash can keep well for several months. Cut pieces should be tightly wrapped and refrigerated.

Winter squash is always cooked before eating, usually after the fruit has been cut open and the seeds and fibers scooped out. (The seeds of most winter squash varieties can be dried or roasted and consumed as a snack.) Halves can be baked and served plain or stuffed with cheese, meats, or other vegetables. Baking conserves the nutrients in the flesh and enhances its sweetness. Some especially tough-shelled varieties can be baked or steamed whole (after piercing the flesh) and then cut up. Squash pieces also can be boiled or steamed in broth, microwaved, or sautéed in oil. Baked or steamed winter squash is delicious mashed or pureed and seasoned with spices such as fresh ginger, curry, cinnamon, cloves, or allspice or with sweeteners such as brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey.

Squash also can be mixed with onions, garlic, and herbs or with other vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Chunks of squash can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles. Any type of mashed or pureed winter squash can be used in place of canned pumpkin in soups, pies, cookies, or quick breads. Spaghetti squash is often served as a substitute for pasta, topped with tomato sauce, pesto, or other sauces. Cooked squash also can be frozen for later use.

Source: Encyclopedia of Foods/A Guide to Healthy Nutrition, Squash Info Handout