Region of Origin

Commodity:

Winter Squash

Origin

Winter squash are in the cucurbit plant family along with cucumber, watermelon, summer squash, and other gourds. They are distinguished from summer squash by their ability to be eaten at full maturity and store for long periods of time after harvest. Many varieties of winter squash are “cured” at temperatures around 80 degrees for up to a month after harvest to allow the rind to further harvest ...

Other Names

Pumpkin, Gourd

Health Benefits & Nutrition

Winter squash are exceptionally nutritious. They are rich in anti-cancer flavonoids like beta carotene and lutein, fiber, and potassium. Additionally, they are filling, but relatively low in calories and low on the Glycemic Index. Squash have been traditionally used to treat conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammation.

Varieties

Acorn Squash Golden

Description

The golden acorn squash is unique with its vivid orange color. It is about the same size and shape as a common green acorn squash, and has a similar flavor profile, although some say it is sweeter. The yellow flesh is moist, airy, and mild.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Golden acorns can be used in the same way a green acorn squash would. It is best suited to applications where it will be served in halves or wedges so they beautiful color of the skin can be seen on the plate. Like a green acorn, the skin is edible, but it is most often discarded.

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Acorn Squash Green

AKA: Des Moines Squash, Pepper Squash

Description

Green acorn squash is relatively small – about 5 to 8 inches across. Its hard skin is dark green, often tinted with areas of vivid orange. The squash has ridged sides that taper, giving it the appearance of an acorn. The yellow flesh is moist with a light texture and mild, nutty, distinctly squash-like flavor. Acorn squash is in the same species as summer squash, but is considered a winter squash. It was originally grown by Native Americans, and came to popularity among European settlers during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Acorn squash makes a great single-serve squash. It is best baked or roasted, especially with butter and brown sugar or maple syrup, and it is an excellent candidate for stuffing. The skin is not usually eaten, but it is edible, and can be enjoyed if desired. Unlike other hard squash, acorn squash is not a good keeper. It should be used within a few weeks of harvest.

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Acorn Squash White

Description

The white acorn squash has creamy white to light yellow rind. The light-yellow flesh is similar in flavor to that of green acorn, with a hint of spice and nuttiness.

Variety Tips & Tricks

The white acorn squash is best baked. It has better keeping abilities than green acorn and can be stored for longer.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Butternut Squash

Description

The common butternut is a foundational winter squash. They are typically medium sized at about 8 to 10 inches long, and about 3 to 5 pounds per squash. They have leathery tan skin with a thick neck and a bulge on the blossom end where the seed cavity forms inside. The flesh is bright or light orange and dense with a creamy, fine texture. The flavor is squash-like and sugary sweet.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Butternut are one of the most versatile squash. They are superb roasted, grilled, steamed, pureed, or even used in pies or baked goods. They have high yields and are easy to butcher in the kitchen. The skin is edible, but is often peeled. Butternut have a great keeping ability and may last several months if stored correctly.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Mexico
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Calabaza Squash

AKA: West Indian Pumpkin, Auyama (Dominican Republic), Ayote (Central America), Zapallo (South America), Kalabasa (Phillipines)

Description

Calabaza is a variety of pumpkin common in the tropical Americas, especially the Caribbean, and southeast Asia, especially the Philippines. There are many cultivars of calabaza that may vary in size from pie pumpkin-sized to hubbard-sized, shape from round to squat and oval, and color from tan to green. Many farmers save their own seeds, producing a unique cultivar. Generally, the calabaza that are commercially available in the US are large are about 8 to 10 pounds each. They are round and squat with wide ridges and a buff, smooth skin. The skin is tan with undertones of orange-pink and gray-green striping and splotches. The flesh is deep orange in color with an airy, lightly stringy, and moist texture more akin to pumpkin than other winter squash varieties. The flavor is earthy and lightly sweet with a heady pumpkin flavor.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Calabaza is an exceptional cooking squash exceptionally well suited to use in soups, curries, and stews, although it can also be baked, roasted, or steamed. It can also be candied to make a traditional Mexican sweet enjoyed on the Day of the Dead. Calabaza can keep for several months.

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Costa Rica
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Carnival Squash

Description

The carnival squash is a cross between a sweet dumpling squash and an acorn squash that was introduced by a breeder in the early 1990s. It is a similar shape and size to the common green acorn, but the skin is creamy yellow with beautiful variegated stripes and spotting in orange and deep green. No two squash are exactly alike. The yellow flesh is mild, sweet, and nutty with hints of maple.

Variety Tips & Tricks

While carnival squash is often used as decoration due to its lovely coloring, it is also a great eating squash that can be used in any recipe calling for acorn squash. It is a better keeper than green acorn squash and may last for several months.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Delicata Squash

AKA: Sweet Potato Squash

Description

Delicata squash are elongated, petite winter squash. They are about 6 to 9 inches long with gentle ridges and thick, but tender, rind. The skin is cream-colored with deep green striping and splotching. The yellow-orange flesh inside is about 1 to 2 inches thick, surrounding a large inner seed cavity. It has a dense texture and a flavor reminiscent of sweet potato. Delicata was originally grown by Native Americans in North and Central America. The variety was picked up by seed distributors in the late 1800s, but didn’t become prominent until new disease-resistant cultivars were developed in the 1990s.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Delicata is a delicious, approachable winter squash that is best roasted or stuffed and baked. The best thing about delicata squash is that its skin is entirely edible, and has a pleasant chewy texture. The edible skin makes for easy preparation and increased yields. Just wash thoroughly before use.

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Honeynut Squash

Description

The honeynut squash is an adorable mini cultivar of butternut that grows to only 1 to 1.5 pounds. It has the same shape as a butternut, but often develops a rich burnt orange color, rather than the buff tan of butternut. The flesh is deeply colored and very sweet. The honeynut was developed by plant breeders at Cornell and released in the early 2000s, with support from some of the world’s top chefs.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Honeynut is sweetest when dry roasted, rather than braised or steamed, as roasting allows the sugars to caramelize and intensify in flavor. They are the perfect squash for portioning and plating, as their size is petite and relatively consistent.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Hubbard Squash Blue

Description

The blue hubbard is a big, beautiful storage squash with a distinct teardrop shape. Each squash can weigh up to 40 pounds, but is usually harvested at 15 to 20 pounds. Their light gray-blue rind is striking, as is its deeply colored orange-yellow flesh. The flesh is fine-textured, creamy, thick, and sweet with a decadent nutty flavor. The variety was first grown in South America. It is believed that the seeds were brought on a ship from the West Indies to Massachusetts in the 1800s, where it was found by a plant breeder and further developed into this New England favorite. It has since been used to breed many other varieties around the world.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Blue hubbard is an exceptional storage squash – it can last up to 6 months if stored properly. It is best for baking and purees, such as pumpkin pie, soup, or casserole, that show off it’s creamy texture and bold flavor. Best cooked in it’s skin to avoid peeling, which can be difficult due to the skin’s hardness.

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Hubbard Squash Golden

Description

Golden hubbard is large, tear-drop shaped storage squash (although smaller than the blue variety of hubbard), coming in at around 8 to 10 pounds each. The hard, often bumpy skin is a vivid red-orange and the flesh is golden. It is fine-textured, sweet, and somewhat dry. It was derived from the blue hubbard that was brought to Massachusetts from South America via West Indies and first introduced as commercially-available seed in the mid-1800s.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Like blue hubbard, golden hubbard is an exceptional keeper and will last up to 6 months. It is best for baking, purees, and canning. It is recommended that golden hubbard be cooking it its skin to avoid peeling, which can be difficult due to the skin’s hardness.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Kabocha Squash

AKA: Japanese Pumpkin

Description

Kabocha are squat, round storage squash that weigh around 3 to 5 pounds each, on average. They have thick, dark green skin with blue-gray speckling and sometimes have bumpy scarring. The flesh is thick and deeply orange with a dry, dense texture and very sweet, nutty, chestnut-like flavor, which it is prized for. The kabocha was developed in Japan from hubbard squash varieties that arrived via the US in the 1800s from their origin in South America. The hubbard varieties were crossed with other squash varieties that already existed in Japan to produce a smaller, sweeter, drier fleshed cultivar.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Kabocha squash is very versatile squash. It is excellent steamed, braised, roasted, fried and pureed. The most common preparations include braising, steaming, soups, and tempura in its native Japan. The skin of kabocha is edible and has a pleasant chewy texture, although sometimes the skin is removed, depending on the recipe. Kabocha can be stored for several months.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Mexico
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USA
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Pumpkin Mini

Description

Mini pumpkins are very small cultivars of pumpkin that are about 3 to 4 inches wide. They are squatter than a pie pumpkin or jack-o-lantern with more prominent lobes. The flesh inside is yellow-orange with decent flavor.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Mini pumpkins are perfect for decoration or party gifts, but they are edible too! Mini pumpkins can be stuffed and used as an adorable serving dish that adds another layer of pumpkin flavor to a dish.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Pumpkin Pie

AKA: Sugar Pumpkin

Description

Pie pumpkins are an iconic winter squash. They are the same species as larger pumpkins, bound for jack-o-lanterns, but smaller with thicker flesh that improves yields and a sweeter flavor. They are generally 4 to 5 pounds each with a round shape, bright orange color, and long stem.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Pie pumpkins can be used as decoration, and later used for pies, other desserts, or canning.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Red Kuri Squash

AKA: Orange Hokkaido

Description

Red kuri is a mini hubbard variety with a teardrop shape that comes in at about 3 to 5 pounds each. They are strikingly red-orange with smooth skin. Their flesh is orange-yellow with a rich, sweet flavor with hints of chestnut. They were developed in Japan after the introduction of hubbard-type squashes in the 1800s, and they remain a popular traditional squash variety there. The red kuri and similar varieties, like the French potimarron, are also popular in Europe.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Red kuri can be braised, steamed, pureed, baked, or fried, much like a kabocha squash.

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Spaghetti Squash

Description

Spaghetti squash is a unique variety of winter squash with light yellow flesh that naturally pulls apart like strands of pasta when cooked. The flesh is lightly sweet with a nutty flavor. They are rounded and oblong with thin, but hard, yellow skin. Spaghetti squash are on average 4 to 5 pounds each and will keep for several months.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Spaghetti squash is the classic low-carb pasta replacement. Their flavor is mild enough to compliment almost any sauce, but they pair especially well with red sauces and pestos. They should be cut in half, seeds should be removed, and then they can be roasted, steamed, or microwaved until the strands of flesh easily pull apart with a fork.

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Sweet Dumpling Squash

Description

Sweet dumpling squash is small – about 3 to 4 inches in diameter - and shaped like a cross between a pumpkin and an acorn squash with wide ridged lobes. They have ivory colored skin with green, orange and yellow striping and spotting for a festive appearance, much like that of a delicata. The flesh is orange and dense but buttery with a sweet, fall flavor. The sweet dumpling was developed in Japan and introduced to the market in the 1970s.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Sweet dumpling is the perfect “single-serve” squash, ideal for roasting or stuffing.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Turks Turban Squash

Description

Turk’s turban is primarily a decorative squash, although it is edible. It is bright orange with a prominent “button” on the blossom end that features unique white, green, and yellow striping. This variety has been marketed since the early 1800s.

Variety Tips & Tricks

While Turk’s Turban is primarily used for decoration due to its mild flavor that lacks in sweetness, it is edible. It can be used for stuffing or as an edible “bowl” for soups.

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Foodservice Tips

Traditional Culinary Uses

Winter squash have been used in Native American cooking for centuries as a primary food source.  Preparations of squash were varied, and nothing went to waste.  Whole squash were often roasted whole in coals.  Sometimes they were boiled or stewed.  Strips of squash were sun-dried in the fall to be rehydrated later in the winter.  The seeds were roasted and eaten.  The male blossoms from the plant were also consumed in a wide variety of ways.  European settlers also began to utilize the squash plants after they decided to live on Native American territory.  Early pilgrims hollowed out pumpkins and filled them with apples, spices, sugar, and milk as an early version of a pie.  The first cookbook written by an American and published in the United States in 1796 even contained a recipe for pumpkin pie.

 

Today, winter squash remain a staple food, although there is perhaps less diversity in common varieties.  They are used for everything from savory curries, stews, purees, soups, and side dishes to sweets like pumpkin pie and dumplings.

Flavor Pairings

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Marjoram, Cilantro, Corn, Fresno Chile, Kale, Cranberry, Radicchio, Arugula, Apple, Pomegranate, Mushroom, Red Onion, Coconut Milk, Ginger, Curry Powder, Chile Powder, Maple Syrup, Honey, Brown Sugar, Vinegar, Pumpkin Seed, Butter, Feta Cheese, Goat Cheese, Pork Sausage, Chicken

How to Prepare

Winter squash can be prepared by either cooking whole and scooping the flesh from the thick skin, or cutting away the skin before cooking.  Some varieties, such as delicata and kabocha, have skin with a pleasant texture that is commonly eaten and can be left on.  If cooking whole, be sure to pierce the squash to the center in several places to allow air to escape while cooking and prevent an unpleasant explosion.  The squash can also be halved and the seeds removed before it is roasted.  If fully butchering the squash before cooking, use caution as they can be very difficult to cut when raw.  The squash can be pierced and microwaved for several minutes to soften before butchering, if desired.

How to Store in the Kitchen

Winter squash can be stored in a cool, well ventilated, very dry area.  They should not be refrigerated below 50°F at any time.  Some varieties may only keep for 1 to 2 months, while others, such as hubbard, can be stored for up to 5 or 6 months.

 

Fight Food Waste Tips for root to stem cooking

Don’t waste those seeds! Pumpkin and winter squash seeds can be roasted and eaten as snacked or used as garnish. They can even be used to add a nutty character to sauces.

Warehouse Storage & Handling

Maintain these conditions for optimal short-term storage shelf life.*

IDEAL STORAGE TEMP:

55-59°F

RECOMMENDED TEMP STORAGE ZONE:

55-60°F (Warm Storage)

SUBJECT TO CHILLING INJURY:

Yes – Winter squash are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F. Symptoms can include surface pitting and decay.

RELATIVE HUMIDITY:

50-75%

PRODUCES ETHYLENE:

No

SENSITIVE TO ETHYLENE:

Yes-Medium

ETHYLENE RECOMMENDATIONS:

Winter squash should be stored away from ethylene producing items. Exposure to ethylene can cause degreening of green-rind winter squash.

Quality Assessment

Winter squash should be full sized according to the variety standard with the stem intact.  Corking and browning on the stem is an indicator of proper maturity at harvest.  Hard scars, knots, and knobbiness on the skin is normal.  The skin should be free of black spotting and areas of decay.  The flesh should be dense with deep color.

Important Handling Notes

Winter squash must be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area above 50° or early decay will occur. Internal breakdown of flesh appearing as air pockets are indicative of storage for too long a time and/or too high of temperatures.

Optimum Shelf Life

Depending on variety, conditions at harvest, and handling, winter squash may last from 1 to 6 months.

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