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Winter Squash is Back on the Menu! Part 1

September 29, 2015 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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In Part 1 of this series you’ll learn about buying and storing winter squash. Part 2 takes you to the kitchen and provides tips on using this delicious vegetable (well actually it’s a fruit).

Winter squash come in a dazzling number of varieties. They vary widely in size, colour, shape and flavour. To help you get started we’ve got answers to some common squash questions.

What’s the difference between winter and summer squash?

  • Winter squash, like acorn and buttercup squash, have been picked after they have fully matured and have hard skins. This makes them perfect for storing through the winter months. Compared to summer squash, winter squash have sweeter taste, denser texture and yellow or orange flesh.
  • Summer squash, like zucchini and patty pan squash, are harvested earlier in the season. They have thin edible skins and typically white or pale yellow flesh.

Are winter squash nutritious?

  • You bet! Winter squash are a source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and other essential nutrients.
  • Beta carotene is an orange coloured nutrient that our bodies convert to vitamin A, and also acts as an antioxidant.
  • Vitamin C is important for our immune system and the growth and repair of body tissues.
  • Potassium is a mineral that can help to lower blood pressure.

Where is the best place to buy winter squash?

  • While butternut and acorn squash are commonly available at supermarkets you’ll most likely need to visit a farmer’s market, squash farm or specialty shop to experience the delightful variety of winter squash being harvested locally. Look for a farmer’s market near you here.

I’m new to winter squash, where should I start?

  • Start with butternut squash. It is beige coloured and shaped like a bell. The skin is fairly thin making it easier to cut and peel than other winter squash. Butternut squash is commonly available in grocery stores year round, but is best at the peak of the local season in the fall. The flesh is deep orange with a sweet and nutty flavour.  As you get more adventurous try other varieties like delicata or buttercup squash.

How do I choose and store winter squash?

  • Choose squash that feel heavy for their size and have hard, deep coloured skin without any damage or soft spots.
  • Store whole squash in a cool, dry and well ventilated place. Check occasionally for signs of rot. Squash should last several months if kept this way.

Wondering what to do with the colourful winter squash you’ve brought home? Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this series where we’ll focus on recipes and tips for using this seasonal favourite.


Related blogs

Winter Squash is Back on the Menu! Part 2
Recipe Ideas for Savouring the Harvest
Pumpkin Raisin Muffins by Tracy Nash

Recommended resources

BCfresh: Squash
EatRight Ontario: All About Winter Squash
All About Pumpkins: Facts
Epicurious: A Visual Guide to Winter Squash
What’s Cooking America: Types of Squash

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Comments (1)

Adrienne Ngai's picture

Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

Posted on Wednesday September 30, 2015 a 3:34pm

Great post! I love eating squash.

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