Winter Squash

Winter squash are one of our staple crops and a staple keeper in our home pantry. We look forward to having squash through the cold days of winter. Winter squash gets sweeter as they age.

We grow a variety of winter squash that include buttercup (Paula’s favorite), butternut, pie pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti, and delicata (Kevin’s favorite). We’ve found these varieties to keep well into the cold months with proper storage in a cool, dry, dark space with good air circulation.

Winter squash needs to be cooked before eaten. Baked, steamed, roasted, mashed, stuffed, cooked and pureed for soups or pies, winter squashes are versatile. Here are a few basic ideas for preparing your winter squash and some adaptations of recipes we’ve cooked over the years.

Delicata: one of the first winter squash to mature, delicatas are individual-sized, can be steamed, roasted, stuffed, and more. The skin of the Delicata is delicate and edible- hence its name. Here’s a classic, easy Vermont recipe:

Roasted Delicata Squash with Maple Syrup

  • Delicata squash, 2 medium
  • Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Maple Syrup, 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher salt & black pepper

Place rack in the center of your oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut your squash in half lengthwise like canoes and scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into 1/4 inch moons and place in a medium sized bowl.

Drizzle the squash with olive and the maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Toss to coat and combine.

Place squash in single layer on a baking sheet (Use parchment paper for easy clean-up.).

Bake for 15 minutes, flip with a spatula and bake for 15-20 more minutes until tender and caramelized.

This basic recipe is so adaptable to seasonal additions like roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli, add fresh or dried cranberries at the end, use your fresh fall herbs like thyme or sage, mix some feta or Parmesan cheese before serving.

Spaghetti: Like Delicata, spaghetti squash is one of the first winter squashes to mature. The feature of spaghetti squash is its stringy flesh that can bet scooped out like….(wait for it) ….spaghetti! Low in carbohydrates, spaghetti squash can be substituted for pasta and used with any sauce, including pesto.

Cooking A Spaghetti Squash With Your Favorite Sauce

  • Spaghetti squash, one medium
  • Olive Oil, one tablespoon
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sauce of your choice, marinara, coconut curry, tahini, pesto…you choose.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

Cut your spaghetti squash in half. Crosswise is easy, lengthwise is harder but you will get longer strands of spaghetti-like squash. Cut off the stem end, cut a flat base at the bottom and stand it up and cut down. Be sure to use a sharp knife.

Scoop out the seeds.

Coat the flesh of the squash with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Plan the squash cut side down on the pan. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, heat up your sauce or prepare it as needed.

Your squash is done when you can easily pierce the skin with a fork.

When cool enough to handle, scoop the strands into a bowl and mix with Uphill Farm Pesto or with your favorite tomato sauce. Add veggies of your choice, sausage if you want, or try a coconut curry sauce with your spaghetti noodles. Top with some Parmesan cheese and you have a spaghetti dinner.

Buttercup: Sweet, with a delicate flavor, buttercup squash are one of the longest winter keepers. They sweeten with age, so by January, February, & March they are a wonderful treat roasted in the oven. Buttercups are another squash that are wonderful roasted, mashed, and with just a little maple syrup and butter are even more delicious. Here’s a seasonal recipe that adds more sweetness:

Buttercup Squash Stuffed with Apples

  • Buttercup squash, 1 medium
  • Apple, 2 medium, chopped
  • Brown sugar, 2 teaspoons packed
  • Butter, 2 teaspoons
  • Lemon Juice, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Carefully cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side up in an ungreased baking pan.

Mix together the remaining ingredients and divide into each half of the squash.

Cover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the squash is fork tender.

Butternut: Butternuts are also great keepers during the winter months. Butternut Squash Lasagna makes a festive vegetarian dish for Thanksgiving or any other special holiday meal. Butternuts can also be cubed, cooked, and added to stews and chilis. We like to make a butternut squash soup that’s easy, quick, and warming on a cold winter day.

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

  • Butternut squash, approximately 3 lbs., peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
  • Vegetable stock or water, 3 cups
  • Garlic, 4 cloves minced
  • Apple, one peeled and cored
  • Carrot, one large
  • Onion, one medium chopped
  • Sage, one fresh sprig or 1 teaspoon dried
  • Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg, pinch of each
  • Coconut unsweetened milk, one can

Combine butternut squash, water, garlic, apple, carrot, onion, sage, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer with lid on for 20 to 30 minutes.

When the butternut squash is very fork tender remove from the heat. Remove the sage sprig, if used.

Add the coconut milk and blend together with an immersion blender or cool slightly & very carefully put into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Great additions to the soup are a one-inch nob of fresh minced ginger, 1 tablespoon curry powder,

and/or 1 tablespoon red curry Thai paste.

If you have an Instant Pot this soup comes together quickly. Instant Pot directions: add all ingredients to the pot except the coconut milk. Close the pot lid securely, be sure to set the vent to sealed. Press Manual, High Pressure, and adjust the time +/- for 8 minutes. Cook. Carefully turn the release to venting and carefully release the pressure manually until the valve has dropped down. Carefully open the lid. Remove the sage sprig, if used. Add the coconut milk and blend together with an immersion blender or cool slightly & very carefully put into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Acorn: Dark green on the outside and yellow/orange and nutty/sweet on the inside, these individual-sized squashes are named for resembling an acorn. Their skins are thin and edible. They can be cut in half, cut into wedges, steamed, microwaved, and most commonly baked. Their size lends themselves to being stuffed with rice, quinoa, or lentils.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Curried Lentils

  • 3 medium sized Acorn Squash
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Lentils, green or red, 1 cup
  • Water, 3 cups
  • Onion, 1 small chopped (or 1 large shallot, thinly sliced)
  • Garlic, 2 cloves minced
  • Curry powder, 1 teaspoon
  • Spinach, 2 cups
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the squash in half from tip to stem. Scoop out the seeds.

Place the squash halves, skin side down, in a roasting pan. Add enough warm water to cover the bottom with about a 1/4 inch of water. Cover the pan with foil (or a lid if your pan has one).

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until the squash can be easily pierce with a fork.

Prepare your filling while the squash are cooking. Rinse and then cook the lentils in 3 cups water until done. Red lentils are done in 15 minutes. Green lentils cook in approximately 45 minutes. When cooked, drain if excess water.

Sauté the onions lightly in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the curry powder and sauté lightly for one minute. Add spinach and lightly sauté until wilted. Add cooked lentils into the vegetables and stir until combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Flip over the squash halves and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scoop the lentil mixture into the cavity of each squash and serve hot!

This recipe can be adapted for other squash like acorns or spaghetti squashes. Other suggested fillings are rice, quinoa, or farro. Add other vegetables like peppers & mushrooms. Add cheeses, herbs, or other greens like kale or collards. Use farmers market haul, your pantry staples, and your imagination. Sausage, chicken, or ground lamb or beef are good additions for animal proteins or just keep it vegan.

Pie Pumpkin: Pie pumpkins make the best pies! Canned “pumpkin” is made from a variety of winter squash, not just true pumpkins. We grow New England Pie Pumpkins. They are great keepers, their flesh is sweet, and they are delicious just cooked and mashed.

One of our favorite holiday dishes is “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.” We stuff a small pie pumpkin and bake it in the oven. It’s a beautiful and delicious. There are many versions of this recipe online, but we use rice. The result is a creamy risotto like consistency that’s so delicious with the cooked pumpkin. Here’s our take on it:

“Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

  • One pie pumpkin, approximately 3 pounds
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (basmati, short grain, or white rice if you prefer)
  • One large shallot, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Thyme, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch nutmeg

Center the rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Wash and dry the outside of the pumpkin. Carve out a cap with a strong, sturdy knife at a 45-degree angle like a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts of the cap and the inside of the pumpkin. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet or in a round casserole dish.

In a large bowl toss together the rice, cheese, shallots, garlic, and thyme. Stuff the pumpkin with the rice mixture (you might have too much, or you might need more rice).

Mix the cream with a pinch of nutmeg and a little salt & pepper and slowly pour into the pumpkin to moisten the mixture. If it starts to overflow the pumpkin stop pouring. It might take time for the cream to settle down. Place the cap back on top of the pumpkin.

Cook your pumpkin for 2 hours or until the rice is bubbling hot and the pumpkin pierces easily with a fork. Check it at about 90 minutes and remove the cap about 20 minutes before it’s done.

The pumpkin is beautiful, browned, and bubbling on the inside and makes a beautiful presentation. Serve hot and either slice it or scoop out.

Hat tip and thanks to Epicurious for the original recipe.