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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Cornucopia of Squash

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Q: What comes in many colors and sizes, easy to prepare, tasty, healthy and plentiful now?

A: If you said winter squash, you are correct. Winter Squash comes in many colors, orange, yellow, green, red, and vary in size from a few ounces to 15 pounds or more.

Q: In case you are wondering, what is Summer Squash?

A: Crookneck and zucchini are examples of Summer Squash

Summer Squash are harvested when immature (while the rind is still tender and edible). The name "summer squash" refers to the inability to store these squashes for long periods of time (until winter), unlike winter squashes. It grows on bush-type plants that do not spread like the plants of fall and winter squash and pumpkin. A few healthy and well-maintained plants produce abundant yields.

I love squash. I even like the frozen pureed version you can buy in a box! My mother said I was her picky eater. She got me to eat squash and like it. I know it's good for me and I have had some tasty squash dishes over the years. I think people may simply avoid squash not knowing how to prepare it!

Squash is an American food. It sustained native Americans for more than five thousand years and then helped nourish the early European settlers, who quickly made the vegetable an important part of their diet.

Winter Squash The many varieties of winter squash are harvested at a mature stage, when their shells have grown hard and inedible. Because of these protective shells, winter squash can be harvested in the fall and stored several months, throughout the winter, in a cool, dry place.

The yellow or orange flesh of winter squashes is rich in complex carbohydrates and Vitamin A. Some types, such as Hubbard and butternut, contain more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin A and only 40 calories in a 1-cup serving.

Availability: Some winter squashes, particularly acorn, are in good supply year-round. But most are at their peak beginning in late summer and continuing throughout the fall and winter, they become scarce in spring.

Shopping Tips: Look for a squash with a smooth, dull, dry rind, free of cracks or soft spots. A winter squash should feel heavy for its size. If possible, choose squash with the stem attached. The stem should be rounded and dry, not collapsed, blackened or moist.

Varieties: There are many varieties of squash. Most varieties can be substituted for one another in recipes. The three most popular varieties are acorn, butternut, and Hubbard.

Preparation: Rinse off any dirt before using.

Baking: To bake, halve small squash length-wise, scoop out the seeds and strings. Cut large squash into serving sized pieces. Place squash, cut-side down in a foil-lined pan. Pour 1/4 -inch of water into the pan, cover with foil, and bake in a 350o to 400o F. oven until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife. Halfway through baking, the squash halves may be turned, cut-side up, brushed with melted butter or oil, and sprinkled with brown sugar and spices.

Cooking Time: Squash halves or whole small pumpkins, 40 to 45 minutes; cut-up squash, 15 to 25 minutes.

Microwaving: Arrange squash halves, cut-side up, in a shallow microwaveable dish, cover and cook until tender, rotating dish halfway through the cooking time. Let stand 5 minutes after cooking.

Cooking Time: for squash halves, 7 to 10 minutes; for chunks, 8 minutes.

Serving suggestions: Baked or steamed winter squash is delicious mashed or pureed, like sweet potatoes. To enhance its natural sweetness, combine squash with any of the following; baked or steamed pears or apples, bananas, chopped cranberries; lemon, lime, or orange juice; almond or vanilla extract; fresh or powered ginger, curry power; cinnamon; nutmeg; mace; cardamom; cloves; allspice or pumpkin pie spice; brown sugar; maple syrup; or honey. For a savory dish, mash the cooked squash with sauted onions or garlic and herbs, or combine chunks of squash with cooked corn, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

Stuffed Squash

1 medium acorn squash or other small squash


1 medium apples, peeled, or desired, cored and chopped

1 tablespoon water


2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

one half tablespoon butter or margarine

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

one fourth teaspoon cinnamon

Scoop out seeds from squash halves. Place cut-side down on microwave baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at high 6 minutes, or until fork tender, rotating dish one half turn after half the cooking time. Let stand while preparing filling. 1-1 qt casserole combine apples and water. Cover. Microwave at high 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender, stirring after half the cooking time. Set aside.

Turn squash cut-side up. Place one half of apples in each half. Sprinkle one half of topping on each. Cover with wax paper. Microwave at high one and a half to two minutes, or until topping melts. Serves 2

Nutrition Information per serving: 260 calories, 8 gm fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 7 gm fiber.

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