9 Varieties Of Winter Squash That Are Full Of Nutrients

Want to eat local, organic vegetables all winter long? Stock up on squash.

December 7, 2017
winter squash varieties
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Farmer's markets may be shutting down for the season, but if you load up on winter squash before the farmers hang up their hoes until spring, you'll be rolling in local produce from now till next May.

In addition to the fact that they're full of nutrients, ranging from B vitamins to omega-3s, varieties of winter squash, with their hard exterior shells, make fantastic winter storage crops, in some cases lasting six months before going bad; just put the squash in a cool place (ideally between 50º and 60ºF) and dip into your supply whenever the need for butternut squash soup or stuffed acorn squash arises.

(Brag your love of gardening with the Organic Life 2018 Wall Calendar, featuring gorgeous photographs, cooking tips and recipes, plus how to eat more—and waste less—of what's in season.)

In many cases, a winter squash's flavor will intensify after a few weeks in storage. Don't limit yourself to the same old standard types, though.

Here are nine harder-to-find varieties to roast, steam, boil, or bake this winter.

delicata
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Delicata

If you try one new variety this fall, try an easy-prep, heirloom delicata squash. Delicatas have striped or mottled skin in shades of cream and green, and have rich-tasting, tender, golden flesh. Best of all, unlike other squash, their skins are thin enough to eat. Typical delicatas have oblong bodies, while a variety called Sweet Dumpling has a more petite, round shape. Delicata's edible skin makes it perfect for stuffing, roasting, grilling, or baking; it can be stored up to four months.

Related: 10 Tips For Growing Pumpkins And Squash

kabocha squash
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Kabocha

Kabocha is a medium-size Japanese squash that's rapidly gaining favor here in the U.S. Very sweet in flavor, kabochas have beautiful dark gray or green-striped skin, which is edible, and orange, flaky flesh. Laura Pensiero, chef at Rhinebeck, NY's Gigi Trattoria, their drier flesh makes them a perfect accompaniment for gnocchi, tarts, and risotto. Green kabochas will last between four and five months, while the darker gray last up to six.

Here's how to save squash seeds:

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buttercup squash
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Buttercup

Not to be confused with the butternut variety, buttercup squashes are medium-size, round and dark green with a "button" on the blossom end of the squash. Their flavorful golden flesh, good for mashing and for baking, is sweeter than that of most other varieties of winter squash, and can even be used as a replacement for sweet potatoes. To bake it, cut the squash into cup-size chunks, scraping out the seeds with a spoon. Rub with olive oil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes in a hot oven (425º to 450°F). Store your whole buttercups for up to four months.

Related: How To Keep Pumpkins And Squash Fresh All Winter Long

hubbard squash
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Hubbard

Hubbards are larger squashes with a teardrop-shaped body in shades ranging from orange-red to a beautiful grey-blue. Their reddish-orange flesh is less sweet than other squash varieties, but the flavor actually improves after a few weeks in storage. Try Blue Hubbard—a large heirloom favorite with hard, powdery blue skin and vivid orange flesh—as a substitute for pumpkin in pies and soup. These big squash will last up to six months in storage. Can't crack your Hubbard with a knife? Put it in a paper bag and just drop it on the ground to break the hard shell.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Heirloom Pumpkins—From A Pumpkin Professional

banana squash
Photograph courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
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Banana

With sweet, dense flesh and pink or gray-green skin, banana squashes are often quite large, with an oblong shape. The heirloom 'Jumbo Pink' banana squash can easily grow to a length of 30 inches and can weigh up to 40 pounds, so these squash aren't commonly found in an average grocery store, although some stores sell the flesh pre-sliced. If you can find a whole banana squash, it can last you up to six months if stored properly. This squash can be prepared like any other squash mentioned here--it doesn't taste like bananas. In fact, some of the best seasonings to use with it include thyme, bay, sage, rosemary, cumin, curry, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

 
 
turban squash
Photograph courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
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Turban

This colorful, squat, and yes, turban-shaped squash is another favorite of Gigi Trattoria's Laura Pensiero. Its yellow-orange flesh has a delicious, nutty flavor. Try the heirloom variety called Turk's Turban. Pensiero recommends chopping unpeeled squash into wedges or chunks, then roasting it with a drizzle of olive oil until the flesh is soft. It's also great in soups, given that the flesh is much less sweet than other types of squash, and its curious shape makes it a great soup tureen and table decoration. Like other varieties of bigger squash, these will store for six months.

spaghetti squash
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Spaghetti

If you've always been curious about it, now's the time to finally try spaghetti squash. It doesn't actually taste like spaghetti; rather, the fresh, mild-tasting flesh resembles long noodles by separating into long, thin al dente strings when cooked. It's a great option if you're looking to avoid the carbs in traditional pasta. Roast it as you would any other squash, either whole or sliced in half and cooked, cut-side down, on an oiled cookie sheet. When the skin is easily pierced with a knife, take it out of the oven and scrape out the flesh with a fork. You'll wind up with nearly translucent strands that resemble spaghetti that you can top with your favorite pasta sauce.

Related: The Most Beautiful Winter Squashes You Can Eat

acorn squash
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Acorn

Think you know acorn squash? While you may have tried the ridged, deep green and orange kind with its pale yellow, nutty, distinctive-tasting flesh, there are other varieties. Mix it up by trying Thelma Sanders, an acorn heirloom that has deep ridges and ivory skin that ripens to gold. Acorn squash, sliced in half, is a perfect single-serving side dish and is ideal for stuffing. These only last three months, so eat them up first.

Related: 14 Unusual Pumpkins For Fall Decorating (And Eating!)

 
 
stuffed butternut squash with wild rice
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Butternut

And finally, there's good old butternut squash: The familiar bell-shaped, light tan squash with its smooth, sweet, deep orange flesh is always reliable in recipes. For a delicious, dairy-free butternut squash soup, simply roast a butternut squash in the oven, scoop out the flesh, puree it in a blender, thin it with some stock, and season to taste. Looking for something a little more exotic? Steam cubes of butternut squash and dress them with olive oil, tamari, ginger, and roasted pumpkin seeds (or squash seeds). Butternuts are another keeper; they'll last you six months and their flavor gets sweeter with age.

Related: Upgrade Your Mac And Cheese By Adding Butternut Squash