From the classic tan butternut squash to the brightly colored sweet dumpling, winter squash come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. In general, winter squash have tough outer rinds with sweet-tasting inner flesh and are conveniently interchangeable in recipes.
Despite their name, winter squash are harvested during the start of fall, and can last for extensive periods of time without rotting if stored properly. Their long shelf-life and beautiful colors make for charming fall décor.
The most well-known variety of winter squash is the pumpkin, but you’d be best leaving it for carving into a jack o’lantern. Most commercially available pumpkin pie fillings are made not with pumpkin, but other, sweeter, varieties of winter squash.
Winter squash are incredibly versatile. In addition to sweet dishes like pies, they taste excellent baked in savory dishes as well.
Preparations for the squash vary depending on the type of squash, with some requiring peeling and others not.
The soft-skinned delicata squash sold by Riverdog Farm has an edible rind and doesn’t require peeling. The delicata tastes great roasted with other vegetables, baked, or tossed in a salad.
The spaghetti squash, sold by Happy Boy Farms, doesn’t require peeling either: simply cut it in half, bake it, and scrape the inside with a fork to produce strands of a healthy pasta alternative.
Sugar pumpkins, butternut squash, and hubbard varieties have non-edible rinds and need to be peeled, though kabocha can be eaten with the rind if baked long enough.
For a truly unique and fascinating exploration of winter squash visit La Tercera’s stall at the Downtown Berkeley Farmers’ Market. There you will find varieties with names like Fordhook, Thelma Sanders, and Sucrine du Berry.
Recipes for winter squash are as varied and numerous as the squash are themselves, but nearly all winter squash do well either cut in half and baked at 350 until soft, or cubed and simmer in stews and curries.
Market Report is written by the Ecology Center, the Berkeley nonprofit that, among other things, hosts Berkeley’s three weekly Farmers Markets. For hours and locations of the markets, visit the Ecology Center website.