Winter squash, as the name implies, is harvested in the late fall or winter (depending on where you live). Its thick skin hardens as it cures, providing a protective casing for the flesh inside. You can store it for many months in a cold room or similar environment. Leave the stems on the fruits to keep them from drying out. Place each squash on a few sheets of newspaper or a piece cardboard, ensuring that it doesn’t touch its neighbour.
If frost or winter necessitates picking a squash before it is fully ripe, it may ripen in storage so long as the ripening process started before you picked it. A dark green, immature pumpkin, for example, may not ripen in storage. The spotted green squash on the above left is now, two months later, almost fully ripe.
Squashes can stay in cold storage for many months, Check them periodically to ensure that they are not getting spongey or soft. If this is the case, it is time to use them!
There are a few ways to cook winter squash, but here’s what I like to do:
- Cut the squash in half.
- Scoop out the seeds, but leave the stringy stuff inside.
- Place halves on a cookie sheet or baking dish, peel side down, so that they form two bowls.
- Bake at 350F until the flesh is soft. The cooking time varies according to the type and size of squash. Check it periodically, and if the halves fill up with fluid, drain that into the sink.
- Let the squash cool completely.
- Drain any liquid that has accumulated.
- Use a spoon to scoop away the stringy innards.
- Start at one of the cut edges, and remove the peel in strips.
- Puree the flesh using a food processor, blender, or potato masher.
Now for the best part: the seeds!
You can roast and eat the seeds from all varieties of winter squash, not just pumpkins! Don’t forget to save a few seeds for next year, unless you planted more than one variety of winter squash–in which case cross-pollination may have occurred.
- Place the seeds in a colander, and run them under cold water to rinse the bits of fleshy pulp off them.
- Spread them evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
- Season with salt, or your favourite spices.
- Bake at 300F until the seeds begin to turn a light golden brown.