Fall is just around the corner, which means cooler weather, beautiful scenery, and delicious fall foods! One such food is winter squash. Winter squash is harvested and eaten when it’s mature, which means it can be stored and used throughout the winter – hence its name! The most popular winter squash include acorn, butternut, Hubbard, and spaghetti. Winter squash should be stored in a cool, dry, well ventilated location. Refrigerating a whole squash doesn’t work for long term storage because a refrigerator is too humid.
Squash provide a great source of fiber, as well as a variety of other nutrients your body needs. For instance, squash with orange flesh is an excellent source of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps your skin, vision, and bones to stay healthy. There are many reasons to eat squash, but because of their hard exterior, some avoid eating them altogether. This doesn’t have to be the case!
Here are a few tips to make preparing winter squash safer and less stressful:
- Stabilize your workspace. Make sure your cutting board doesn’t slide by putting a damp towel underneath it.
- Use the right knife. The best knife to use when cutting a winter squash is a chef’s knife with at least an 8-inch blade. Make sure your knife is sharp; a dull knife can be dangerous.
- Trim the ends. When cutting any food that has the ability to roll it is best to create a flat surface. By cutting off the ends first you are creating a flat surface that will stabilize the squash.
If you’re dealing with butternut squash, first cut the squash in half, leaving two smaller sections that will be easier to manage. A fantastic way to soften any winter squash, making it easier to cut, is to microwave it! Carefully pierce the squash in several places with a fork or knife, place on a microwave safe dish, and microwave for about 5 minutes. The squash will be hot, so let it cool for a few minutes before handling. This slightly softens the squash making it much more easy to cut with a knife.
Remember, if you want to avoid cutting the squash at all, you can bake it whole. Carefully pierce the squash in several places using a fork or knife. Place the whole squash in a baking dish. Heat the oven to 425 F and bake the squash for about 60-80 minutes, then let it cool. The rind should be soft and will pull apart easily. The seeds can then be removed and the squash can be scooped out of the rind. You can also use your slow cooker! Using this method will require a squash small enough to fit inside the slow cooker. Again, carefully pierce the squash in several places. Place the whole squash inside and fill the slow cooker with water until about a half-inch sits in the bottom of the cooker. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8 hours. You will know it’s ready when you can easily pierce it with a fork. Let it cool and then cut in half and remove the seeds.
Winter squash is an affordable, nutritious, and delicious food that doesn’t have to be a hassle. Hopefully with these tips you can confidently put winter squash on your grocery list this fall!