Storing Winter Squash

Winter squash is a summer-growing annual fruit, representing several squash species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this fruit can be stored for use during the winter. It is generally cooked before eating.

This article will consider several varieties of winter squash with a similar nutritional profile: Sweet Dumpling, Red Kuri, Kabocha, Delicata, Carnival, and Buttercup.

Three of these winter squashes are varieties of the species Cucurbita pepo, which is the same species that includes all types of summer squash (including pattypan squash, zucchini, and yellow crookneck squash):

  • delicatasquashDelicata squash is a winter squash with distinctive longitudinal dark green stripes on a yellow or cream colored background and sweet, orange-yellow flesh. It is also known as the peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash. Delicata squash was introduced in 1894 by the Peter Henderson Company of New York City, and was popular through the 1920s. Then it fell into obscurity for about seventy-five years, possibly because of its thinner, more tender skin, which isn’t suited to transportation over thousands of miles and storage over months. Its popularity and commercial feasibility were revived by the improved variety called Cornell Bush Delicata Squash. This is one of the tastier winter squashes, with creamy pulp that tastes a bit like corn and sweet potatoes. Size may range from 5 to 10 inches in length. The squash can be baked or steamed, and the thin skin is also edible.
  • sweetdumplingsquashSweet dumpling squash, or just “dumpling squash” has a creamy white rind with green stripes. It looks like a squat round version of the Delicata squash, as if someone took a spherical squash and pushed down its stem, so it formed a little hollow in the top of the squash.  The very sweet, moist, yellow-orange flesh makes this squash a seasonal favorite. This variety is popular for stuffing and to use as a container for serving soups, dips, and sauces.  This is one of the earliest and sweetest of the specialty squash.
  • carnivalsquashIn 1991, plant breeder Ted Superak debuted carnival squash, a hybrid of Sweet Dumpling and an Acorn squash variety (the Green Table Queen) , both descendants of squashes native to Mexico. Carnival squash are harvested roughly 85 days after seeds are sown and if stored properly, can be enjoyed for up to three to four months. Cream colored with orange spots or pale green with dark green spots in vertical stripes, carnival squash have hard, thick skins, so only the flesh is eaten. It is sometimes labeled as a type of acorn squash. The yellow meat tastes like sweet potatoes or butternut squash and can be baked or steamed then combined with fresh herbs. It’s also great in soups, or stuffed.

Three of these winter squashes are varieties of the species Cucurbita maxima:

  • redkuriRed kuri squash is a thick-skinned orange or red winter squash that has the appearance of a small pumpkin without the ridges. Inside the hard outer skin there is a firm flesh that provides a very delicate and mellow chestnut-like flavor. Red Kuri Squash was developed in Japan from a Hubbard squash. Other varieties of this subspecies include ‘Hokkaido’, ‘Red Hokkaido’ and ‘Sweet Meat’ squashes. Red kuri squash is commonly called Japanese Squash, Orange Hokkaido Squash, Baby Red Hubbard Squash, or the Uchiki Kuri Squash. In Japan, the word kuri may refer to either the squash discussed in this article or to Japanese chestnuts. In France it is called Potimarron, and in the United Kingdom it is commonly called Onion Squash. Primarily grown in Japan, California, Florida, Southwestern Colorado, Mexico, Tasmania, Tonga, New Zealand, Chile, Provence, and South Africa, red kuri is widely adapted for climates that provide a growing season of 100 days or more. Most of the California, Colorado, Tonga and New Zealand crops are exported to Japan.
  • kabochaKabocha is another Asian variety of winter squash of the species Cucurbita maxima. The word kabocha has come to mean a general type of winter squash to many English-speaking growers and buyers. In some cultures it is revered as an aphrodisiac. Kabocha is commonly called Japanese pumpkin, especially in Australia and New Zealand. It is also called kabocha squash in North America. In Japan, the word kabocha may refer to either this squash or to the Western-style pumpkin. Kabocha began its history in Japan where it was favored for its sweetness and pleasing texture. The Sakata Seed Company, an enterprising California grower, planted this unique squash to provide Japan with a steady supply. Japan, with its limited agricultural land, bought the entire crop. Sakata continued to plant the squash and even expanded its pastures into Mexico. Because the Japanese prefer big squashes, the smaller ones were left to be sold in the Los Angeles market. Sakata produces approximately 110 tons of kabocha annually, making about 10 to 15% available for American consumers.
  • buttercupsquashButtercup squash is one of the most common varieties of Cucurbita maxima, with a round turban shape (a flattish top and dark green skin), with a blueish bulge at the bottom, weighing three to five pounds, and normally heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh. It is similar in sweetness to butternut, but with a more dense flesh.

Winter squash is low in calories, fat, and sodium, and like all vegetables, contains no cholesterol. It’s an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, and manganese. Winter squash can:

  1. Promote healthy vision. The vitamin A in winter squash promotes healthy vision.
  2. Build strong bodies. The vitamin A in winter squash promotes healthy skin and mucous membranes, bone and tooth growth, and immune system health. The vitamin C in winter squash helps produce collagen, which supports strong bones, muscles, blood vessels, gums, mucous membranes, corneas, joints, and other supporting cells and tissues, and helps you absorb iron and calcium.
  3. Support your immune system. The vitamin C in winter squash supports your immune system; processes toxins for elimination; and acts as an antihistamine.
  4. Fight free radicals. Winter squash is high in carotenoid antioxidants. It also contains a very good amount of vitamin C (nearly one-third of the Daily Value in every cup of cooked winter squash) and a very good amount of the antioxidant mineral manganese as well. The vitamin C in winter squash functions as an antioxidant and prevents oxygen-based damage to your cells. The cell wall polysaccharides in winter squash also have antioxidant properties, as do some of their phenolic phytochemicals.
  5. Fight chronic inflammation. Cucurbitacins are glycoside molecules found in a wide variety of foods, including the brassica vegetables and some mushrooms. But they are named for the gourd-squash-melon family of foods (Cucurbitaceae) because of their initial discovery in this food family. Cucurbitacins can be extremely bitter-tasting to animals as well as humans, and they are considered to be part of the plants’ natural defense mechanisms. Yet the same properties that make cucurbitacins potentially toxic to some animals and microorganisms also make them effective as anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory substances when you eat them in winter squash. Winter squash also contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. One cup of baked winter squash will provide you with approximately 340 milligrams of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a valuable amount being provided by a low-fat food. (Less than 15% of the calories in winter squash come from fat.)
  6. Fight cancer. The vitamin C in winter squash helps prevent cancer by neutralizing volatile oxygen free radical molecules and preventing damage to your DNA that can lead to cancer and by destabilizing a tumor’s ability to grow under oxygen-starved conditions. The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in winter squash help in cancer prevention and cancer treatment, particularly in prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer.
  7. Regulate blood sugar. Winter squash can help regulate blood sugar and prevent type 2 diabetes. Cell wall polysaccharides from winter squash and other Cucurbita foods can improve blood sugar and insulin regulation. Likewise, other nutrients in winter squash are beneficial for blood sugar control, including the B-vitamin-like compound d-chiro-inositol. Blood sugar regulation is closely tied to your overall supply of B-complex vitamins, and winter squash is packed with B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6folateniacin, and pantothenic acid.
  8. Prevent cardiovascular disease. The fiber in winter squash helps lower cholesterol by attaching itself to bile acids that your liver makes from cholesterol for digesting fat. Because fiber binds so well with bile acid, thus crowding its ability to immediately digest fat, your liver must produce more bile acid, using cholesterol that it pulls out of your blood, lowering the overall cholesterol level in your body. Furthermore, the high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A prevent cholesterol from oxidizing in your blood vessels, preventing the onset of atherosclerosis. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients reduce your risk of most cardiovascular problems. There may also be unique substances in the Cucurbita vegetables that partially block the formation of cholesterol in your cells by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase.

Nutrients in 100 Grams (1/2 Cup) Baked Winter Squash 

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin A

5224 IU

104%

vitamin C

9.6 mg

16%

fiber

2.8 g

11%

manganese

0.2 mg

9%

vitamin B6

0.2 mg

8%

potassium

241 mg

7%

vitamin K

4.4 µg

6%

folate

20 µg

5%

copper

0.1 mg

4%

carbohydrates

8.9 g

3%

magnesium

13 mg

3%

protein

0.9 g

2%

niacin

0.5 mg

2%

calcium

22 mg

2%

phosphorus

19 mg

2%

iron

0.4 mg

2%

pantothenic acid

0.2 mg

2%

Calories

37

1.85%

zinc

0.2 mg

1.3%

vitamin E

0.1 mg

1%

thiamine

0.016 mg

1%

fat

0.4 g

0.6%

selenium

0.4 µg

0.6%

riboflavin

0.1 mg

0.4%

sodium

1 mg

0.04%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

carotene-ß

2793 µg

crypto-xanthin-ß

0 µg

carotene-α

682 µg

Look for clean, thick skin with no scuffs or blemishes. For the squash to keep well, you want a piece of the vine to still be attached and the skin should not give when pressed.

Even without a root cellar, you can store winter squash for months. All you need is some space in a cool room, such as an unheated extra bedroom.

To cut winter squash, create a flat surface by slicing off a thin layer of the bottom or sides. This will ensure that the squash won’t roll around as you cut into it. Use your chef’s knife to thinly peel the skin, or leave the skin on. Cut the squash in half. Keep your hands out of the way of the knife and put some weight on the top of the knife as you cut through. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and stringy innards of the squash.

Squash is a sweet vegetable similar to carrots and beets. The best way to accentuate its sweetness is to cook it at a high heat and allow it to caramelize. Serve squash as a side dish or as a main event, such as a stuffed squash. Substitute any of these winter squashes for recipes that call for butternut or acorn.

To roast winter squash, preheat oven to 400 degrees. After preparing your squash (without peeling) lay it skin side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife easily pierces through the largest part of the squash. Remove pan and allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop out flesh and mash with a bit of sea salt. Enjoy.

Recipe:

Stuffed Carnival Squash


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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