Although they carry a name like this, their season lasts from late summer to mid-winter. Some of them are even available year-round. A wide variety is available, like homey acorn squash, magical cinderella pumpkins, and weirdly shaped turban squash.
A winter squash has a thick and tough shell, which protects the sweet and rich flesh on the inside. This makes them an excellent storage vegetable, as it can stay fresh for long. The important thing is to always pick a squash that seems heavy for its size. When preparing it, make sure they are cooked properly, as this will bring out the best flavor and texture.
In recent years, butternut squash become on of the more standard ingredients on menus, and could be found in creamy soups, ravioli fillings, and risotto flavors. These are the sweetest among winter squash, and have a thick, bright orange and rather moist flesh, only hiding a few seeds. Its shape is an elongated pear with a thin and pale tan skin. It peels easy and usually weighs from 2 to 3 pounds.
Butternut squash is a very versatile vegetable, and it sautes quickly. It has a great taste when roasted. Perhaps the best thing about them is that they mash and pure smoothly. You will find no thick strands or fibrous bits, hence its popularity as a soup.
Before the butternut squash took over, acorn squash was the most common one in the USA. They are round and have even groves all around. The flesh is moist, sweet and tender. Their skin is dark green, while some splotches of orange and yellow can occur. The flesh is a yellowish pumpkin orange shade. These pumpkins weigh anywhere from 12 ounces to 2 pounds.
An acorn squash is perfect for roasting, steaming, baking, mashing, and sauteeing. From this you can see that they are very versatile. The smallest among them you can simply cut in half, remove the seeds, and roast with some butter and brown sugar. Last but not least, they are ideal for stuffing, and could be an excellent vegan main course for an important occasion.
This one is all about the texture. When you cook it, the flesh easily pulls apart into thick and slightly crisp strands, similar to noodles. It is often served with tomato sauce, however many different recipes are available, like simply roasting it with butter and salt.
This squash tends to be large, weighing from 3 to 5 pounds. They have pale yellow-white skin, while the flesh is orange or bright yellow. When they are raw and cut in half, the inside is similar to other squash because itis solid and rich in seeds. It only reminds of spaghetti once cooked.
This small squash is oblong and striped in bright yellow, dark green, and orange colors. Their peel is extremely thin and edible. Their flesh is sweet, nutty, and drier than the rest of its kind. It has a signiture corn-like flavor, particularly delicious when cut into rings and roasted with maple syrup, butter, and cinnamon. The halves could also be stuffed and baked.
This one does not store that well due to its thin skin. Always check them for potential bruises, cuts, and soft spots when buying. These delicate pumpkins usually weigh less than one pound.
These are potentially the largest winter squash you will find. The smallest of these will easily dwarf the largest butternut squash. Due to their large size, they are sold in pre-cut chunks, which makes them much more appealing to those who cook at home.
This squash is slightly tear-shaped and has dark green or pale grayish blue skin. It is remarkably sweet and has a clear pumpkin flavor. The best way to go with these is to roast them, and make sure to season them with rosemary and black pepper for a tasty snack. You can also mash them with a lot of butter and cumin or nutmeg.
These tend to sweeten as they sit, and they can sit for long as their extra-thick skin helps them do this through the winter. If stored properly, they can store for 5 months. As they are so big, leftovers are a common occurrence, in which case you should try to make a winter squash spice cake.
Sweet Dumpling Squash
This cute squash has yellow skin with bright orange or deep green stripes. They are small, only 4 inches in diameter and usually weigh less than a pound. These are perfect for roasting, stuffing, and as a side dish or appetizer.
They can be quite difficult to peel, so they are cooked with the skin. Either cut then into wedges or halve horizontally, and once cooked, you can throw away the skin or eat it. Their flesh is starchy with a smooth texture, sweet with a light flavor of corn.
Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin
This one is pretty special. They have a gray-blue skin and bright orange and a very distinct flavor. It is a wonderful, sweet and nutty flavor, which cannot be found in any other winter squash. Just roast it with some salt and butter, and you are set. It is a perfect vessel for stuffing, while the flesh mashes up great, which is awesome for baked goods or creamy soups.
There are remarkably sweet and tender, and have a slightly nutty flavor. Its dense, smooth, sweet flesh is immensely tasty and needs little work when preparing. All it takes is to roast or slice it before baking it with butter, oil and salt. Their flesh holds its shape nicely during cooked, even in liquids. This makes it great in the form of chunks in soups or steamed dishes. Ginger and sesame go great with this squash.
The kabocha squash is usually large, round, and squat, with a dark green and mottled, sometimes bumpy skin. They make a great table decoration, so use them like this instead of the regular storing. It can be difficult to cut, which is why it is usually cooked along with the skin.
Long Island Cheese Pumpkins
This pumpkin has a magical shape and is sometimes called “Cinderella pumpkin”. Why you ask? It is just so easy to imagine it suddenly transforming into a fairytale carriage. They are also special because they are one of the oldest pumpkins cultivated in the USA.
These have a beautiful sweet and firm flesh, which makes them perfect for roasting. It can also be steamed, baked, grilled, boiled, and pickled. Interestingly, both skin and the seeds of this pumpkin are edible.
Rouge Vif d’Etampes Pumpkins
Rouge Vif d’Etampes pumpkins have a uniquely red-orange color beautifully round and squat. Like the cheese pumpkins, these also carry the nickname “Cinderella pumpkins.” The same color is present on the inside. These are great for roasting with a bit of warm spice, and make beautiful garden decorations.
Red Kuri (Hokkaido) Squash
These small, red-orange pumpkins do not have any deep ridges in their sides. Its flesh is bright orange and has a mild and nutty flavor, perfect for soups and baked meals. Due to its small size, it is often used for stuffing and roasting. One great recipe is the spicy sambal roasted pumpkin, delicious in combination with the nutty flavor of the Red Kuri squash.
Obviously, they earned their name thanks to their turban-like shape. When it comes to colors, they range from mottled green, orange, and yellow. They have an interestingly bumpy skin, and because of this are widely used for decoration. If you want to eat them, roasting is the way to go. Their mild flesh goes well with wide range of seasonings, while its floury texture is ideal for soups.
Sugar Pie and Other Sweet Pumpkins
Field pumpkins, which are the most famous for jack o’ lanterns during Halloween, have dry and flavorless flesh. People use them as baked tureens for soup. Other than this, carving and decoration is all they can offer. Some varieties are roasted or made into soups.
“Sugar pie” and the rest of the small and sweet pumpkins are great for eating, almost similar to the acorn squash. The smallest you can hollow out, roast until tender, and fill with savory custards or soup, making them a fun dish. Generally, search for pumpkins that are labeled as sweet or sugar. These you can bake, mash, roast, or puree like any other winter squash..
Some of these are just white field pumpkins, best used for carving and decoration. Others, however, are new or heirloom varieties, perfect for eating as they are sweet and delicious. They have yellow-to-mild orange flesh, and wonderful texture and taste. White pumpkins are generally available in several different varieties, with the lumina being the one which tastes the best. Try using a white pumpkin the next time you plan to bake a pumpkin cake.