by Mike Burns, Product Placement Manager
Feel like trying some new this fall? There is no better time to check out these lesser-known winter squashes than right now in all our Produce departments. Most everyone is familiar with butternut, acorn, or even spaghetti squash, but what about some of the winter squashes you may not be so familiar with? Do not be intimidated by these squashes. My best advice: skip trying to peel these beasts and just cut them open, remove the seeds (which you should try roasting for added deliciousness) and roast them with a little oil or butter and a dash of salt and you can’t go wrong. As you feel more comfortable, try out some more complicated recipes. You won’t be disappointed! Here they are.
One of the most tender and thin-skinned winter squash, the delicata does not store well (compared to other winter squash) but can actually be eaten raw if sliced thin enough. This squash is in the same species as summer squash or zucchini with just slightly tougher skin and later harvest. The flesh is flavorful and reminds me of a sweet corn flavor with hints of chestnut, but best of all, no peeling!
Try it in: I tend to just roast my delicata, removing the seeds first of course, but you can leave the skin on and it cooks fairly quickly compared to other winter squash. Try seeding it, cutting it in half and baking it for 30 minutes or so. Add whatever you’d like but it's great with just some butter and light salt.
The carnival squash’s beautiful exterior and delicious interior is a result of crossing Sweet Dumpling and acorn squash. Unlike the delicata squash, the carnival has a very thick and tough skin, similar to that of acorn squash. The exterior of the carnival squash is quite attractive and gives a great culinary display with stuffed squash dishes. For the flesh, it is very similar in taste to delicata but with the firmness of acorn squash.
Try it in: Given how tough and difficult the skin is to peel, most folks just cut the squash in half, bake it and then scoop out the flesh. For that reason, try some stuffed squash recipes or roasting it then scooping it out and using it in a puree or baking dish.
Kabocha (Green or Red)
This Japanese “pumpkin,” as it is sometimes called, is one of the sweetest winter squashes. The exterior is usually either dark green or a bright red-orange, similar to the Red Kuri. You can tell the difference between red kabocha and Red Kuri by their shape, with the kabocha being flatter on the top without the Kuri’s stem point. The flesh is a vibrant yellow-orange that when cooked can be a bit dry and crumbly.
Try it in: Basically anything you would use sweet potatoes in...such as curries, soups, stir-fry or on its own. Given the dryness of the squash, I prefer using it with sauces or liquids.
A close relative to the hubbard squash and another Japanese native, the Red Kuri squash is one of my personal favorites. The name in Japanese means “chestnut” and it is quite fitting, given its nutty flavor. With a high concentration of beta carotene, mild sweetness, and dense texture, this is a great all-around squash to add to your list.
Try it in: Kuri is very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. I’m a fan of it in Thai curries and soups but you can puree it and make a pie with it, add it to a casserole or just plain roast it.
Saving the biggest squash for last, the Blue Hubbard is a great choice for feeding a large group. This unique squash also has a rather funky look that reminds me of a warty giant blue-gray lemon...for lack of a better description. The flesh is bright orange and has a much milder, less sweet taste compared to other winter squashes.
Try it in: I would use it like a baked potato: butter, chives, salt and pepper and dare I say...bacon!