Fall is harvest time

Winter squash and pumpkin are plentiful in the fall.

Michigan grown winter squash and pumpkins are at their peak! These colorful fall vegetables not only look and taste good, they are nutrition powerhouses. They are good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and are low in calories!

Michigan State University Extension has a variety of fact sheets with storing and preserving information for Michigan grown vegetables and fruits on the Michigan Fresh website.

Whether you are purchasing winter squash or pie pumpkins, look for squash or pumpkins that are not shriveled, blackened or moist. Always scrub squash or pumpkins using cool water running water and a vegetable brush before cooking or cutting. However, do not wash squash or pumpkins before storing because they will spoil sooner.

Store whole winter squash in a cool place (45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). If stored properly, most varieties will keep up to three months. Store cut pumpkin or squash in the refrigerator and use within a week.

The best way to preserve squash and pumpkin is to freeze it. Recommended varieties of squash for freezing include acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, golden delicious, hubbard and spaghetti squash.

The best pumpkin to use for cooking and baking is one of the smaller, sweet varieties known as pie pumpkins, such as peek-a-boo, sugar treat, dickinson fields, baby pam, triple treat, kentucky field, buckskin and chelsey.

Winter squash and pumpkin can be canned by cutting into cubes and following pressure canning processing directions from a reputable source such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Pumpkin or winter squash are easy to prepare. After washing with water, cut the vegetable in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash or pumpkin cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F. for about one hour or until it is tender when poked with a fork. Scoop the baked squash/pumpkin out of the rind. Mash the squash/pumpkin and add desired seasonings such as salt, pepper, butter, etc.

Another idea is to flip the squash over after baking and add stuffing such as cooked hot wild rice with cranberries and pecans in the bowl of the squash and serve. Delicious!

The SNAP-ED Connection website also has low cost, nutritious recipes for preparing and using winter squash. 

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