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A Guide to Winter Squash

Squash are a winter staple here in Ontario. Harvested in the fall, these hardy gourds keep well throughout the cold winter months, hence the name.

Beyond those readily available at the supermarket such as pumpkin, acorn and butternut, there is a wide variety and diversity of winter squash that will enhance any winter meal. Sweet and dense, winter squash absorb a wide spectrum of seasonings and are a great addition to soups, casseroles, pies, risotto, lasagna, breads and even desserts. Rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as magnesium, potassium, manganese and beta carotene, winter squash can also pack a real nutritional punch. Read on to discover more about these beautiful winter squash varieties, most of which can be found right here in Ontario, and discover some delicious recipes to brighten up the winter months.

1. Ambercup

A relative of the buttercup, Ambercup squash resembles a small pumpkin with its brilliant orange-to-red shell, but with a slightly more bumpy texture. It has a bright orange, fine-grained flesh with a very sweet taste.

2. Butternut

Probably the most well known of all the winter squash varieties. Butternut is an oblong, pear-shaped squash with a creamy tan skin and a sweet/nutty flavoured bright orange flesh. The taste and texture is somewhat similar to that of sweet potatoes. Try our recipes for Roasted Butternut Squash and Twice Baked Butternut Squash.

3. Pie Pumpkin

More than just for decoration! Although all pumpkins can be eaten, there is a difference between this sweeter tasting pumpkin and its fibrous, meaty and bland counterparts. Pie pumpkins can be steamed then pureed and used in baking or in a yummy pumpkin pasta. Try this fabulous recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi.

4. Buttercup

The buttercup squash closely resembles the kabocha squash with its dark green skin, and pale green striations. It can smell like a fragrant cucumber when freshly cut, however once cooked, its dark orange/reddish flesh becomes dense, sweet and mild, somewhat similar to a sweet potato.

5. Blue Hubbard

The blue hubbard is a very unique looking squash! Underneath its gray-blue lumpy, bumpy skin is a sweet and savoury tasting orange flesh. Underneath the gray-blue bumpy skin is sweet and savory orange flesh. The flesh can be mealy and dry so is best used in soups, stews and gratins. Try one of these fabulous recipes for blue hubbard squash: Goat Cheese & Hubbard Squash Dip and Sage & Blue Hubbard Squash Risotto with Swiss Chard

6. Spaghetti

Another well-known variety, spaghetti squash is aptly named - when cooked, its flesh becomes 'stringy' and can be used as a healthy noodle alternative. Spaghetti squash have a thin pale yellow/golden skin and oval shape. Try these recipes for Curry Tomato Spaghetti Squash and Spaghetti Squash Tacos.

7. Acorn

The acorn squash resembles an acorn in shape (surprise!), and has a smooth dark green, and mottled orange shell with deep ribs. The flesh is moderately fibrous, with a deep nutty and slightly sweet flavour, making it ideal for stuffing, mashing and roasting. Try these recipes for Baked Acorn Squash, Acorn Squash Lasagna or Cranberry Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash.

8. Delicata

Oblong with striped edible skin and pale yellow shading, this winter squash most closely resembles its summer squash cousins. Delicatas have a sweet and earthy flavour, and creamy texture similar to a butternut.

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