Unlike summer squash, winter squash has matured seeds and hard shells when harvested in early fall. Typically, winter squash carries excess water which can be released after curing the fruit and storing it at warm temperatures in a well-circulated area for 10 to 14 days. Curing the squash increases the shelf life and concentrates the natural sugars, creating sweeter flavors. Various types of winter squash include butternut, acorn, banana, buttercup, pumpkin, and spaghetti.
This seasonal staple is extremely versatile and works well in many applications. With vegetables increasingly moving to center of plate, hard winter squashes are a good choice to maximize this trend because there are many different varieties and it’s cost effective. Chefs are also becoming more creative and thinking outside of the brown sugar and butter box. Winter squash can be puréed, sautéed, steamed, grilled, or fried. Or try thinly shaving into ribbons to serve as garnishes. These winter squash varieties provide you with the perfect opportunity to utilize seasonal flavors such as maple, acorn, and sage. Hearty and creamy, roasted squash works well as a pasta filling for ravioli and lasagna, puréed for soup and sauces, and stuffed whole for a dramatic presentation. Squashes are also a good vegetarian choice to sub in for meat in dishes like tacos.