Winter squash, under that hard shell, it’s oh so sweet

Winter squash, under that hard shell, it’s oh so sweet

Winter squash, under that hard shell, it’s oh so sweet
Winter squash at Concord’s Farmers Market. (Pete Cruz photo)

CONCORD, CA (Nov. 7, 2023) — Winter squash is often thought of as just a decorative gourd used during the fall season. Most people are unfamiliar with the wonderful variety of hard-shelled winter squash that’s delicious with a mildly sweet flavor.

For easy cooking, roast, then cube, mash or serve in the shell with a bit of brown sugar and butter.

Farmers markets offer varieties not seen at your supermarket like honeynut (a smaller version of butternut), Hubbard (a big gray-green oblong squash), buttercup (dark green and small) and carnival (small, mottled yellow and green variety). You’ll find some tasty winter squash at the Concord Farmers Market from Halog Farms out of Merced and FT Fresh from Fresno.

Try some of these varieties this fall and winter:

Acorn squash. Nutty, meaty taste. These are popular because of their small size. Cut one squash in half and bake for two generous servings. The biggest drawback is that the rind is quite hard and difficult to cut.

Butternut squash. Sweet, moist and nutty taste. Pale yellow-orange color with an elongated gourd shape. This variety is popular because it is easy to use. Its rind is thin enough to peel off with a vegetable peeler.

Hubbard squash. Rich and sweet. It has a bumpy, thick skin with a golden, bluish-gray or green color.

Kabocha squash

Flavorful orange flesh but less moist than most other squash, akin to the fluffiness of a Russet potato. This one is round with a flattened top and dark green color punctuated by white streaks.

Spaghetti squash. Generally mild taste. Yellow inside and out. After it is cooked, dig a fork into the flesh and pull out long yellow strands that resemble spaghetti. Though it tastes like squash, the “noodles” can serve as a low-calorie substitute for pasta.

Delicata squash. A very tasty little squash with thin skin that does not require peeling. Its pale-yellow skin has dark green stripes, and its yellow flesh tastes somewhat like a sweet potato. Cut lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and roast drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Winter squash is not usually peeled before cooking. It is usually steamed, boiled or roasted. Seasonings are similar to what goes well with sweet potatoes: brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves. Cooked garlic adds a nutty mellowness, while herbs bring out the natural flavors. Eat in the shell or scooped out and mashed like potatoes.

Be careful when cutting into the harder-shelled varieties, like acorn. They slip and slide when you try to cut into them. You might have to place the knife on the squash and tap the knife with a hammer to get started. Of course, make sure the knife is sharp.

Kabocha Squash Soup

1 kabocha squash
1 carrot, diced
one onion, finely diced
2 T butter
T heavy cream
4 c. vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish (optional)

Carefully cut and skin kabocha squash, remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Dice onions and carrots.

In a stock pot on the stove, add butter. When melted, add carrots and onion. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the onion is almost translucent and lightly browned.

Add kabocha and vegetable stock. Stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook until kabocha is soft, about 45 minutes. Add cream, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

Blend with an emersion blender until smooth or place in a standing blender, blend and add back to the pot. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Serve with a garnish of parsley and a drizzle of cream, if desired.

Visit Concord’s Farmers Market every Tuesday (during winter months) from 10 AM to 2 PM. The market take place in downtown Concord at Todos Santos Plaza. Go to pcfma.org for more information.

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