A recent trip to the local farmers market admittedly brought a mix of emotions. Although it was sad to see the summer fruits all but disappear, the bounty of autumnal colors more than made up for it. Winter squash varieties are a fall favorite – for good reason. They come in a wide array of textures and flavors and have multiple culinary uses, as well as being very nutrient-dense and full of fiber.

Botanically speaking, winter squashes are part of the curcubit family, the same family as melons and cucumbers. A few of the most common ones are acorn, butternut, spaghetti, delicata, kabocha, and pumpkin. Most can be used interchangeably, but some have special qualities. When cooked, the flesh of spaghetti squash resembles [you guessed it] spaghetti and can be used as a lower-starch option in your favorite pasta dishes. Butternut squash has a creamy flesh that is perfect for soups. Whatever variety you select, be sure to choose squashes that are heavy for their size and have a colorful rind.

Here are some Living Plate ideas for utilizing squash this fall:

Whole squash: Most winter squashes roast whole very well. You can roast the entire squash [favorite technique with pumpkins] to remove flesh and seeds easily. When roasting the entire squash, cook until a knife inserts with little resistance. Remove from oven, cool, then scoop out flesh. Some ideas: Add to pureed soups for creaminess. Mash with herbs and oil for a delicious side dish. Add to your favorite hummus or bean dip to increase the nutrient-density. For spaghetti squash, cut in half and run fork through flesh for “noodles.” Add to baked goods. Try this Living Plate team favorite recipe: Pumpkin Buckwheat Muffins

Cubed squash: You can purchase pre-cut squash in the store, but it is easy enough to do yourself. Pre-roast the squash for about 10 minutes to soften the outer skin. Remove skin and chop flesh.  You can then add squash to sheet pan dinners like we did here:  Sheet Pan Balsamic Chicken and Squash . Or, you can toss with your favorite oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast separately on a parchment-lined baking dish. Some ideas: Add to salads and soups for texture. Toss with herbs for a side dish. We have made this recipe for dozens of community programs – it’s always super popular: Arugula Salad with Butternut Squash 

Seeds: As an added nutritional bonus, winter squash seeds are full of protein, fiber, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. Once removed from the flesh, rinse and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes at 275°, checking periodically to prevent burning. Use this sweet recipe for any seed: Cinnamon Spiced Pumpkin Seeds 

Written by Jenna Peters, Dietetic Intern

Reviewed and edited by Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN