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Winter Squash Tips & Wetherbee’s Spaghetti Squash Recipe

I was deprived as a child, at least when it came to winter squash. I never even heard of it, didn’t know what it looked like, or had the opportunity to taste this mildly sweet fruit-of-the-vine. It wasn’t until one Thanksgiving after a few years of marriage that I took my first taste. My husband’s grandmother cooked banana squash and it was a mouthful that I will always remember. The bright orange and finely-textured flesh was naturally sweet and richly flavored. I was hooked.

winter-squash

Along the way I’ve discovered that winter squash comes in a cornucopia of shapes, sizes and colors to rival most any vegetable. Some have skins that are rough, warty, or smooth. Some are shaped like turbans, acorns, giant teardrops, or resemble big wheels of heavily ribbed cheese. Skin color also varies in tones of blue, orange, red, buff, yellow, and gold, with some varieties sporting multi-hued stripes, splashes, or speckles. And the range of textures and flavors inspires cuisine both savory and sweet.

I’ve also tasted a lot of varieties along the way. Five that top my list of favorites include ‘Buttercup’, ‘Sweet Meat’, ‘Sweet Dumpling’ and ‘Spaghetti”–all varieties that I picked up earlier this season at my local Kmart. As to the fifth variety, why that would be ‘Banana’, of course!

When to Harvest Winter Squash

Timing is everything as the longer a fruit stays on the vine, the sweeter the flesh. If you wait too long to harvest, then the fruits won’t store as long. But no worries as long as you look for these telltale signs: the fruit is fully colored; its skin has changed from shiny to slightly dull; and it passes the thumbnail taste. In other words, the rind should have hardened to the point where your thumbnail cannot easily pierce the skin. A bonus indicator is that the stems on some varieties–such as banana, kabocha and hubbard–also turn corky as they ripen.

When harvesting squash, cut the fruit from the vine with a sharp knife or pruning shears, making sure to leave a 1 to 2 inch stem attached to the fruit. The sugar content will be at its peak if you can hold off on harvesting until after the first light frost.

Storage Tips

The hard skin of winter squash protects the flesh. If properly cured and stored it will keep for several months or more, depending on the variety.

Curing helps to harden the skins even further and heal any cuts or scratches. Look for an area that is warm and dry and allow squash to “cure” for about a week. After curing, store squash in a single layer in a basement, garage, or any well-ventilated and cool location. (45 to 55 degrees F is ideal.)

Cooking Tips

Skin and cut squash in cubes for soups and stews, or stir-fry slender slices for a quick and delicious meal. Large chunks can be steamed in a pot on the stove, then mash for use in breads, muffins, as a topping on meat pie, or to thicken and add flavor to soups and stews. My favorite way is to roast squash in the oven at about 400 degrees, allowing the sugars to condense into a caramelized sweetness best enjoyed with a slither of butter and a big spoon.

To bake winter squash, simply pierce the shell in several places, place whole squash in a roasting pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 to 1.5 hours or until the shell easily gives to pressure.

The fastest way to cook squash is in the microwave. Either pierce the skin several times with a sharp knife and cook until the squash yields to pressure. Or cut the squash in half and place–cut sides up–in a large microwave-safe dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and then pierce the wrap with a fork in several places to allow steam to escape. Microwave at full power for 20 minutes or until the shell gives to pressure.

Here’s our Featured Recipe for Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti-dinner

Spaghetti Squash Italiano Recipe

Spaghetti squash is unlike other winter squash in that its flesh is transformed into slightly crunchy strands similar to spaghetti noodles.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 medium cooked spaghetti squash, cut in half and cooled
  • 1/4 cup softened butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Scrape out the seeds with a spoon (these are great for roasting later). Using a fork, scrape out flesh into spaghetti-like strands and transfer to a serving bowl.

Blend all remaining ingredients together, tossing well with spaghetti squash strands. Serve and enjoy! – Kris Wetherbee

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Kmart Garden Tool(s)

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  1. I love using spaghetti squash in place of pasta. It's a healthier alternative and taste great too. Unfortunately the squash in my garden didn't do too well this year, but I'm looking forward to picking up some at the farm near my house. Thanks for the great tips!

  2. This is such a cool recipe-it seems to be substituting squash for pasta! YUM! This sounds like a great way to get the kids to eat some veggies, too.

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