One of my favorite farmers says that eating a winter squash is like eating a season’s worth of sun stored up in one neat sweet bundle. There are many different kinds of winter squash, too many to list though you might encounter delicata, acorn, butternut, red kuri, kabocha, black futsu, spaghetti squash and pie pumpkins.
Winter squash is versatile; delicious baked, sautéed, fried, grilled, mashed, and even, raw. I often choose how to use it based on the squash’s size and whether I have to peel it or not and how much time I have. Delicata, Jester, Black Futsu, and kabocha-type and, if you’re roasting it, butternut squash do not need to be peeled as their skin is tender enough to be eaten, not to mention nutritious. With delicata and jester squash you can just cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and strings and then cut half-moon slices and bake or pan fry them until tender. Kabocha is best baked and then used in soups or curries or hearty winter salads. If I have a very large squash I tend to bake it and then freeze much of the baked wedges or mashed squash for future use. However, a partial winter squash keeps just fine in the fridge for a couple of weeks if you have the space.
Winter squash stores well around 60 degrees and some varieties, especially larger ones like marina di chioggia, keep for many months. If you see a soft spot developing cut it out and use the rest sooner rather than later.
Butternut squash is fairly easy to peel and of late I’ve been skipping the peeling step if I’m roasting it, and has lots of flesh with only a small seed cavity. It is thus easier to cut into slabs and then dice than many, more irregularly shaped ones. It cooks/bakes quickly and is smooth textured and typically quite sweet. It makes the best “pumpkin” pie. Pie pumpkins can be a bit stringy so if you’re making pie its best to strain the cooked or baked flesh or whiz it well in the food processor. Pie pumpkins are delicious stuffed and baked whole for an impressive main course.