Squashes which mature in the fall, called winter squashes, have hard, thick rinds that you don’t eat, and many hard seeds that have to be scooped out and discarded.
Some people feel that baking a squash can bring out more of its taste than microwaving, boiling, pressure cooking or steaming can, because the dryness of baking evaporates water out of squash and concentrates the flavour, while caramelizing sugars at the same time.
Consider flavouring squash with any combination of the following: brown sugar, maple syrup, orange juice, nutmeg or ginger.
Winter squashes, with tough skins, are best peeled with a heavy French or chef’s knife. Cut off the two ends first, so that you have flat surfaces to stabilize the squash as you cut it, so that you can be cutting it more safely.
America’s Test Kitchen suggests making a vegetable stock from what are typically the squash discards: sauté the seeds and scraped-out fibre with fat and aromatics in a Dutch oven, top with an appropriate amount of boiling water and simmer for a bit, then strain and use or freeze.
Summer squashes have good amounts of Vitamin C; Winter squashes have good amounts of Vitamin A, as would be expected from their orangey colour.
1 pound (500 g) of winter squash, peeled and cooked ≈ 2 cups mashed squash
1 ½ pounds of winter squash, peeled and diced ≈ 4 ½ cups raw
Freezing: Wash. Don’t peel. Cut into, remove seeds. Chop into small pieces. Boil, steam or bake until soft. Let cool. Scrape flesh from rind. Package and freeze.
There are safe, tested procedures for home pressure-canning winter squash. Attempting to home-can plain summer squash is recommended against (though using summer squash in tested pickling and relish type recipes to acidify the squash is fine.)
The Central American trio of foods called “The Three Sisters” is squash paired with corn and beans, though the actual benefits of the growing practice has been questioned in recent times. Squashes have been grown in South & Central America as long ago as 5000 BC, and possibly earlier than that.
Literature & Lore
The knowledge and practice of cultivating squashes spread from Central America up to the natives in North America, who in turn introduced colonists to the vegetable. The word “squash” appears to have come from the word “askutasquash” used by Indians in Massachusetts, which meant “something eaten raw”, which is actually the last thing you’d do with most squash (though maybe they meant zucchini). Sometimes, it is interpreted as “something eaten immature”, which would apply to summer squashes.