Updated: May 27
Does anyone else have a farmer’s market problem this time of year? Please say yes!! I turn into a squash hoarder!! They are just too delicious, affordable and pretty to resist!! I tend to drive away from the market with my van filled with uniquely shaped and colorful squashes and gourds.
Whatever your shopping habits, winter squash is a convenience vegetable for anyone, easily worked into soups and stews, salads, or on its own as a simple side dish. The thick, protective skin keeps squashes from going soft for anywhere from six weeks (for delicata) to eight months (for Hubbard).
In fact, their durability is one of the highlight features of this fabulous winter vegetable!! Keep them on hand for when you’ve used up everything in the fridge, or are coming back from a long weekend out of town, with no time for grocery shopping. It helps that they’re fairly easy to cook: You can steam them, simmer them, pressure-cook them, or sauté them. One of the best methods for cooking squash is also one of the easiest: a simple, long roasting at low heat, which concentrates the squash’s flavor by evaporating moisture, converting its complex carbohydrates to sugars, then caramelizing those sugars. Spreading oil over all surfaces of the cut squash before roasting promotes even distribution of heat—and don’t forget that those seeds can be roasted, too.
Let’s dig in and learn a little more about just a few varieties of winter squash!!
Spaghetti squash is most known as a low-calorie vegetable. But, did you know that it is also rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins!! Spaghetti squash has a higher source of the B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, and vitamin B-6 than pumpkins!!
B-Vitamins are important for children during their growing years as it helps boost mental and physical growth. Vitamin B-6 plays an important role in the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. It also aids in digestion and immune development. This is the vitamin that regulates moods!
Simply scraping the inside of cooked spaghetti squash with a fork will reveal its use! Swap your pasta for this nutrient-dense, low-calorie alternative, and top it with your favorite pesto or pasta sauce!
Butternut squash is probably the most commonly found winter squash variety. One cup of cooked, cubed butternut contains 82 calories and 6.6g of fiber!! It also provides more than the RDA for vitamin A and a third of the RDA for Vitamin C! Butternut is a great source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese.
Vitamin A is especially important for kids. It promotes normal growth and development; tissue and bone repair; and healthy skin, eyes, and immune responses!
The bright orange flesh of the butternut squash shows off its beta carotene content! The orange-yellow flesh has a relatively sweet taste. To make butternut easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately. Add butternut squash to soups, vegan Mac and “cheese”, add it to a frittata, or make a lower calorie lasagna, use as a binder for salmon cakes or simply roast it!
My new absolute favorite!! Delicata squash is also known as Bohemian squash, sweet potato squash, or peanut squash. Because it holds its shape when cooking, it is the perfect edible bowl that can be stuffed and baked meats, quinoa, and veggies. Delicata squash provides tons of vitamin A and C and is a high fiber food (especially for the skin).
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, that is valuable for fighting off the inevitable fall illnesses in our kids. Vitamin C can be stored in cells within the immune system which helps them function optimally! So add a couple of 1/2 moons of delicata squash to the school lunch box!
Delicata squash closely resembles summer squash. The thin outer skin is edible, but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. When cooked, the consistency of the flesh is similar to a sweet potato. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and slice into half-moons, rub with olive or coconut oil and season with your favorite spices. I love cinnamon, salt, and sage! Bake at 400F for 45 min. Or stuff the squash with a veggie or gluten-free grain and meat filling.
Red Kuri Squash
Red Kuri squash is also known as Hokkaido, climbing onion, and baby red Hubbard squash; Uchiki Kuri squash in Japan and Potimarron squash in France. This silly-looking squash that looks like a pumpkin combined with chestnut is by far my FAVORITE of the winter squashes. The edible skin and seeds are fabulous roasted and complement the smooth and creamy flesh.
Did you know that 1/4 cup of squash seeds contains 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein!! I add them to oatmeal and salads.
Red Kuri squash has similar health benefits to other winter squashes containing high amounts of vitamin A and C, calcium, potassium, and iron.
Kids need a sufficient amount of a mineral called, iron for good health and development. Low iron levels can affect how older children do in school iron can make it hard for children to concentrate and cause them to feel tired and weak. Consuming red Kuri squash with vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, tomatoes, and red peppers helps the body absorb iron.
Red Kuri squash has yellow flesh and a smooth chestnut-like flavor. Here are 15 creative roasted red Kuri squash recipes.
Isn’t it cute!! Buttercup squash is packed with good energy: over 85% complex carbohydrates, and 12% protein!! One cup of buttercup squash provides a whole day’s worth of vitamin C and A!! Buttercup squash skin packs 22% more calcium than the same weight of milk. The skin is also a great source of iron! Buttercup squash has more dietary fiber than potatoes, carrots, or even kiwifruit. Buttercup squash is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, comparable to carrots.
Dietary fiber is important for kids to maintain a healthy weight and efficient digestion. When kids eat more fiber, they eat less fat and sugar. Fiber helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels steady which prevents the body from storing unnecessary fat! You can figure out how much fiber your child needs by taking their age in years + 5 = the number of grams she needs each day.
Buttercup squash is compact and green. The buttercup can closely resemble a kabocha squash. A freshly cut buttercup squash may smell like a clean, fragrant cucumber, but once cooked, its orange flesh becomes dense, a bit dry, and very mild.
There are some fabulous and complex recipes for buttercup squash. But, keeping it simple is perfect for encouraging young pallets. Here is a simple recipe: Maple-roasted buttercup squash.
There you have it! The world of winter squash is fabulous and filled with possibilities! Don’t be afraid to introduce nutrient-dense food to your littles early and often. Don’t stop during the toddler years! Keep going and exploring new and different varieties!!