The Versatility of Winter Squash

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

Different selections of winter squash are now in season and available at local farmer’s markets. Varieties include pumpkin, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash. This versatile vegetable is any easy one to keep on hand the next couple of months. Unlike summer squash, winter squash stores for up to two to three months in a dry, room temperature location.

The high nutrient content of winter squash makes it a great addition to meals. In some varieties, the orange coloring is due to beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamin C; this is an important antioxidant that may help to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Winter squash contains many other nutrients such potassium, niacin, and iron. One cup (one serving) has about nine grams of fiber. Fiber plays an important role in managing weight, preventing certain chronic diseases, and reducing constipation.

Often times, winter squash is prepared by baking, boiling, or steaming. But, this versatile veggie can be pureed and included in some unexpected dishes. This addition can help boost the nutrition of some fall favorite recipes. To puree, simply place the cooked squash into a food processor or use a potato masher until you have a smooth consistency. When added to certain meals, the smooth consistency and flavor blend right into the recipe. This is a great way to encourage picky eaters to eat more vegetables. These purees can easily be added to creamy sauces and soups. It is a great way to keep the familiar consistency of a dish while decreasing the amount of unnecessary fat and calories. And, this healthy addition helps boost the vitamin, mineral, and fiber content of dishes!

Try some of the following ideas this autumn with winter squash puree:

– Add one to two cups to the cheese sauce in macaroni and cheese; an even healthier option would be to substitute the puree in place of some of the sauce. This hearty meal has the same look and consistency as regular macaroni and cheese. And, the fiber from the squash will help to keep you feeling full!

– Use the puree to create a thick and creamy soup base. Try using this base in place of heavy cream, butter, or flour.

– Stir ¼ cup puree into oatmeal along with maple syrup and cinnamon. This is a great way to add vegetables to breakfast!

– Add to chili or casserole dishes. The flavor of the squash may create an exciting new variation of a favorite recipe.

– Include some in your smoothie! Smoothies can be a simple way to boost daily fruit and vegetable consumption.

– Use butternut squash in place of pumpkin in recipes to add variety! Many quick bread and pancake recipes are available that use winter squash purees to help add moisture and flavor. You may find a new fall favorite!

– Mix up your routine by substituting this puree for mashed potatoes at dinnertime. It is a great chance to experiment with different variations of flavors and seasonings

And as an added bonus, don’t throw away those seeds! Pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and other squash seeds are great roasted in the oven. This brings out their nutty flavor. These crispy seeds can be added to salads, soups, baked good, trail mixes, or simply enjoyed on their own. Plus, they are filled with healthy nutrients such as fiber, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, and zinc. Enjoying autumn’s produce can be fun and healthy!

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 910-997-8255.