Winter squash are one of my favorite items to stock up on at the final farmers market of the year. They’ll keep for months when stored in a cool, dark, dry place such as a root cellar or basement, meaning that you can enjoy them all winter.
Like the heirloom tomatoes of summer, winter squash vary widely in size, color, and shape. Here’s a guide to what’s what at the farmers market.
Acorn Squash: 2-3 lbs. Subtly sweet. Good for roasting, baking, steaming, mashing, and sauteing. Smaller size makes it perfect for stuffing.
Ambercup Squash: 2-3 lbs. Dry with a sweet-potato flavor. Good for roasting and in soups and stews. Very long storage life (up to five months).
Blue Hokkaido: 2-5 lbs. Subtly sweet with a deep nutty flavor. Good for roasting, baking, and mashing. Also good in soups and stews.
Buttercup Squash: 3-5 lbs. Exceptionally sweet and rich with a sweet-potato flavor. Good for baking, mashing, steaming, and stuffing.
Butternut Squash: 4-5 lbs. Very sweet. Good for roasting, baking, steaming, mashing, sauteing, and pureeing. Great in soups and stews. Stores well.
Carnival Squash: Similar to acorn squash in size, appearance, and flavor.
Delicata Squash: 1-2 lbs. Sweet with a corn-like flavor. The peel is very thin and edible. Thin skin means that this squash does not keep in storage for as long as other varieties. Smaller size makes it a good candidate for stuffing.
Hubbard Squash: 15-40 lbs. One of the largest winter squashes at market besides pumpkins. Look for smaller “baby” varieties that are 4-7 lbs. Very sweet with a pumpkin-like flavor. Extra-thick skins mean that they keep extra-long in storage (up to five months). Best roasted or mashed.
Kabocha Squash: 3-5 lbs. Very sweet and tender, with a nutty flavor. Good for roasting, baking, and steaming. Great in soups and stews.
Red Kuri: 3-4 lbs. Delicate and mellow chestnut-like flavor. Good for roasting, baking, mashing, and steaming.
Spaghetti Squash: 3-4 lbs. When cooked, the flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands. Mild, nutty flavor. Use cooked squash as you would spaghetti pasta.
Sweet Dumpling Squash: 7 oz. Very small in size. Really cute stuffed. Long storage life (up to four months).
Turban Squash: 3-5 lbs. Hazelnut-like flavor. Great hollowed and filled with soup. Also good for baking, mashing, steaming, and as an ornamental.