A&E Fall Produce Guide: Squash

Why they should become part of your rotation, how to choose the right one and what to make with them.

Butternut+Squash+in+a+Marcy+Holmes+community+garden+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+8.

Alice Bennett

Butternut Squash in a Marcy Holmes community garden on Friday, Oct. 8.

Sophia Zimmerman

When you think of squash, chances are the first one that comes to mind is the pumpkin. However, there’s more to the season’s squash selection than pumpkins, which you’ll find no shortage of in the fall. Most squash remain at their peak throughout the entire month of October, although they’ll last until the first hard freeze of the year, according to Terry Picha, owner of the Picha family farm in Eden Prairie, Minn.

There is a variety of winter squash grown and available in Minnesota. These squash varieties include pumpkin, acorn, delicata, spaghetti-types, Hubbard, kabocha, butternut-types and buttercup-types, according to University of Minnesota extension horticulturist Vincent Fritz and soil scientist Carl Rosen.

The most commonly sold squash for Picha, who’s been involved with the Minneapolis Farmers Market since 1953, are the butternut, buttercup, spaghetti, delicata and acorn. These varieties are dense and packed with flavor and range from sugary-sweet to mild.

While each of these squash varieties vary in flavor, they share common nutritional values. Squash contains high amounts of omega-3s, betacarotenos, vitamin A and vitamin C, according to 101 Market master gardener intern Hannah Stoll.
When it comes to choosing a ripe squash, Stoll says to pay attention to the color. The darker the skin, the riper it is. Additionally, check for texture. While squash skin tends to be relatively thick and sturdy by nature, the squash itself should land somewhere in the happy medium between super hard and super soft. In terms of choosing the right type of squash, that decision depends on what you’re looking to make with it.

Picha’s favorite way to enjoy acorn squash is as simple as coating it in some olive oil, seasonings of choice, and popping it into the oven for a quick and easy side dish. However, if you’re in need of some heartier dinner inspiration then I’d recommend making this stuffed acorn squash inspired by blog Pinch Me Good. The best part? The leftover stuffing mixture can be stored and used for additional meals.

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 regular size acorn squash 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 cups spinach
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder2 cups cooked brown rice
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Cut the squash.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grease a baking sheet with oil of choice. Brush the squash halves with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place the squash skin side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes before removing from the oven.
  • While the squash is baking, assemble your filling. Heat a skillet over medium and add olive oil, garlic, shallots and mushrooms. Cook until browned, then add in spinach. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Once spinach is softened, toss in walnuts and season with onion powder, cumin and chili powder. Add in the brown rice and cook for two more minutes. Sprinkle it with parmesan cheese, letting it melt. Finish with orange zest and juice, tossing to evenly distribute.
  • Fill each half with as much filling as desired along with additional cheese if desired. Return to the oven and bake for 4-5 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy.

For those who just can’t escape a yearning for the classic pumpkin, give these roasted pumpkin seeds from blog Cookie and Kate a go. Pie pumpkins or ornamental pumpkins can be used for their edible seeds. Packed with antioxidants and a subtle nuttiness, these seeds are also a good source of protein. Harvesting fresh pumpkin seeds can be a little messy, but it’s really as simple as scooping them out of the pumpkin and giving them a good rinse. I advise seasoning the seeds with both chili and garlic powder to add a little kick to the crunchiness.

  • Ingredients:
    1 ½ cup fresh pumpkin seeds
    2 tsp. olive oil
    ¼ tsp. salt

Optional:

  • 2 tsp. maple syrup or honey for sweetness
  • 1 tsp. seasoning of choice (i.e. black pepper, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, etc.)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Clean the pumpkin seeds by placing in a colander and removing all pumpkin flesh with water. Drain and place inside of a paper bag along with paper towels. Give it a good toss around until the seeds are mostly, if not completely, dry.
  • Arrange pumpkin seeds on the baking sheet. Coat in oil, optional sweetener and salt. Stir and coat seeds, then spread out evenly.
  • Let seeds bake for 12 to 16 minutes. Keep an eye on the seeds, stirring in 5-minute intervals. Remove from the oven when they’re golden brown.
  • Toss in optional seasonings, and enjoy hot or cooled.