Add winter squash to your meals

Enjoy the bounty of squash that was harvested this year in your fall and winter meals.

This time of year there are many varieties of winter squash available. Popular varieties include Acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, Golden Delicious, Hubbard and spaghetti squash.

Winter squash has many nutritional benefits. Squash is an excellent source of Vitamin A, mostly in the form of beta carotene. It also provides Vitamin C, potassium, an excellent source of fiber as well as it being low in fat.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following guidelines on selecting squash:

  • Purchase squash with stems that are shriveled, blackened or moist.
  • Remember to wash your hands before and after handling produce.
  • Scrub winter squash with a vegetable brush using cool running water before cooking or cutting. Do not use soap. Do not wash squash before storing.
  • Keep squash away from raw meat and meat juices to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store whole winter squash in a cool (45 to 50 degrees F.) place. If stored properly, most varieties will keep up to 3 months.
  • Store cut squash in the refrigerator and use within a week.
  • For best quality and to preserve nutritional value, preserve only what your family can consume in one year.

Once selected, you can prepare squash in a variety of ways. You can cut it in half, remove the seeds and place it on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour or until a sharp knife is easily inserted. Another option is to remove the skin using a knife or vegetable peeler and cut the flesh into cubes for steaming or sautéing. Cook until a fork can be easily inserted into the cubes. Cooked squash can also be mashed or pureed and used for soups.

Squash can be easily preserved with either freezing or canning. The Michigan Fresh Winter Squash fact sheet provides step by step instructions for either method. The Michigan Fresh site also contains helpful information on using other fall vegetables.

With so many varieties and shapes of winter squash available this time of year it is a great time to experiment with different recipes to find what suits your taste.

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