They’re the brightest food market indictor of autumn, as well as being a versatile and storable staple ingredient: oh my gourd, squash season is upon us.
We love a butternut squash soup (and its variants) as much as any cosy-seeker, but when it comes to branching out to the myriad other varieties, it can be a minefield. Will the skin of an acorn squash destroy a peeler? Can you cook anything beyond pie with a pumpkin? It’s time to find out.
You know, the ones that look like Frankenstein’s vegetable, with the orange, green, and white stripes (right). Thanks to their tough skins, these babies are great for storing, and best cooked by halving the squash and baking from there, scooping the flesh out instead of trying to remove the skin. This variety has a mild flavour, so can take a good scoop of spices.
Acorn squash – that is, those with smooth, often green, skins and an acorn-like shape – is another thicker-skinned variety, but offers more reward for your work, with a chestnut flavour. The flesh is good for roasting and mash, as well as halves being perfect for stuffing.
Ah delicata, that sweet soft squash. The delicata is oblong and striped creamy-yellow and green, with a thin skin that can bruise easily but makes it super easy to prepare. Its mild flavour is often compared to that of sweet potatoes,
Onion (hokkaido, red kuri)
This small, slightly pointy squash, has a bright orange outside and flesh that’s only a bit less intense in colour, along with a nutty flavour. Like the acorn squash, its relatively small size makes it great for stuffing. It’s also great roasted, and in soups and risottos.
No, it’s not super thin and long. Spaghetti squash are the large, smooth, bright yellow variety, and look a bit like enormous alphonso mangos. They get their name from the texture of the flesh, which, when baked and scraped with a fork, will yield noodle-like strands. Paired with sauce, these are a great pasta alternative for those avoiding carbs!
For a long time, the only pumpkins you could get in the UK were for display around Halloween, but these days supermarkets have caught up with their original purpose as a food. If you can grab one, pumpkins should be sweet, honey-ish flavour, which is what makes it great for the great American pumpkin pie. You can also bake the seeds for snacking!
Crown prince (blue!)
There are a few blue varieties around – Hungarian blue, blue hokkaido, Queensland blue – but the one we’re most likely to see in the UK is the crown prince. With a blue-green skin, these squash come up on the large side, sometimes into double-digit pounds, and boast dense flesh that stands up well to roasting. Their size makes them great for big dishes, and they keep for months, but avoid nibbling on the seeds from this one as they don’t taste great.
Last but by no means least is the carnival squash. Almost acorn-like in shape, the carnival has light skin speckled with green and orange, as its a hybrid of acorn squash and the sweet dumpling variety. They can be stored for around a month, and are great halved and roasted with a little sugar to bring out their sweet, nutty flavour.