We know – they’re intimidating. The mounds of colorful, tough-skinned squash and gourds arranged in boxes outside the automatic grocery doors as their more approachable, thin-skinned cousins nestle in their cozy produce-aisle beds. There’s no doubt that members of the Cucurbitaceae family, notably pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash, are beautiful, if not interesting, ornamental works of Mother Nature. But it seems that all are destined to be arranged on the front stoop of every suburban home in the Northeast.
Underneath their colorful, sometimes rough, exteriors is nutrient-dense flesh that does really well in soups – it’s just the right amount of starch to yield a creamy texture. Of course, straight-up baking or roasting your squash is always an option. Many varieties have edible skins and do not need to be peeled.
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, kabocha squash has green skin, orange flesh, and a shape similar to pumpkin. The flesh is super sweet when cooked and is rich in beta-carotene – 1 cup has more than 200% DV of vitamin A! Before preparing for cooking, place whole squash in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes to soften the skin – it will make cutting, peeling, and chopping an easier and much safer experience. Try using kabocha in place of the butternut squash in this Living Plate client-favorite soup: 10-Minute Detox Soup
Acorn squash varies in color from dark green to tie-dyed green with orange shades. The flesh is less sweet than kabocha and is more yellow than orange. Just one cup provides more than 25% DV of vitamin C. You can soften the squash if needed by heating it in the oven, although it is small enough that this may not be needed. Trim the top from each squash, invert on the cutting board, and slice from bottom to top to create two halves. Remove seeds. You can bake the halves with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of maple syrup for 30 minutes at 350°F – an excellent side dish. You can also slice into half-moons to prepare for roasting in this recipe: Winter Squash Salad with Turmeric Dressing
Sugar pumpkins look a lot like carving pumpkins so be sure to select those marked especially for cooking. They are sweeter than those cultivated for jack-o-lantern displays. The best way to cook the flesh is to roast the entire pumpkin – this allows the flesh to remain moist and helps the sugars to develop. Remove stem from pumpkin, rinse, and make several slits through the skin with a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for about an hour. Remove from oven and let sit until cooled. Cut top portion off [around where the stem would be], remove seeds, and scoop out the flesh. We’ve been known to add pumpkin to our hummus and stir into our yogurt. Of course, you can always use for baking, as we did here: Grain-free Harvest Pumpkin Bread
Probably on the top of our list for ease of preparation! Delicata squash has a mild, nutty flavor, firm flesh, and thin edible skin. Preparing this variety could not be simpler: rinse, cut in half, remove seeds, slice into half-moons, toss with some olive oil and salt and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes until browned. Delicious enough to eat on their own as a fiber-rich snack!
Now that you’ll be making squash regularly, you might be wondering, what can I do with all these seeds? Food companies have made it their business to repurpose this compost-worthy waste into delicious edible snacks – but you can do this too! Rinse any remaining flesh from seeds and layout on paper towels to dry. For savory, toss with a bit of olive oil, seasoning of choice, and salt and pepper to taste. For sweet, toss with a bit of melted coconut oil, a touch of maple syrup, cinnamon or other spice, and a pinch of salt. Sweet and savory – why not! All combinations are on the table, including adding a little kick with some cayenne pepper. Roast seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned. Enjoy as a snack or topping for salads, yogurt, oatmeal, or chia pudding.