Cami Wells: ‘Tis the season for wonderful winter squash – Grand Island Independent


Squash that is harvested in the fall is known as winter squash.

Winter squash comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Common varieties include pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash and spaghetti squash. Winter squash is a nutrient-rich food and an excellent source of fiber.

Though they have a range of flavors, most varieties of winter squash can be substituted for one another in recipes. The one exception is spaghetti squash, which has uniquely textured flesh that pulls apart in slender strands.

Cami Wells

Qualities to look for when choosing a winter squash:

• Deep color and is heavy for its size

• Skin that is easily nicked or scraped with a fingernail means that the squash did not reach maturity

• Stem should be firm, rounded, and dry

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Winter squash has a long shelf life and if kept in a cool, dry place between 55 and 60 degrees F, will store for at least a month.

To bake, wash and cut in half or quarters depending on the size. Scoop out seeds with a spoon. Place cut side down on a shallow baking pan and bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 to 50 minutes. To boil or steam, wash, and cut into smaller pieces. Peel and remove seeds. Boil or steam in a small amount of water for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until tender.

Other ideas for using winter squash include:

• Add pureed winter squash to soups

• Use squash like pumpkin in baked goods such as cookies and muffins

• Try using spaghetti squash in place of pasta

• Purée squash and use as a sauce over pasta

• Steam squash and serve as a side dish

• Add squash to a grain side dish

• Roast seeds with seasonings

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped (see note)
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk (optional)
  • A pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon pepitas (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in squash and broth. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For a smooth soup, allow to cool slightly, move contents to a blender and blend until desired consistency. Return to the saucepan and heat to simmer.

Add milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, if desired. Garnish with pepitas and enjoy!

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Note: The smaller you chop the squash, the faster it will cook. For easier peeling, wash the squash and pierce the skin by poking 15-20 holes with a fork. Microwave for 2-3 minutes to soften the skin. Let cool before peeling.

 Calories 70, total fat 2g, saturated fat 0g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 70mg, total carbohydrates 12g, fiber 3g, total sugars 2g, includes 0g added sugars, protein 2g.

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact Cami by phone at 308-385-5088, by email at [email protected] or visit the Hall County website at