Fall is harvest time

Winter squash and pumpkin are plentiful in the fall.

Squash and pumpkins on pallets along street.

Michigan grown winter squash and pumpkins are at their peak!  These colorful fall vegetables not only look and taste good, they are nutritional powerhouses, providing a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fiber while being low in calories!

Whether you are purchasing winter squash or pie pumpkins (pie pumpkins are preferable for baking), look for squash and pumpkins that are not shriveled, blackened or moist. Always wash squash and pumpkins using cool, running water and scrub them with a vegetable brush before cooking or cutting. However, if you are planning to store your squash or pumpkins, wait to wash them until use because it will make them spoil quicker.

Store whole winter squash in a cool place (45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). If stored properly, most varieties will keep up to three months. If you pumpkins or squash are cut, keep them in the refrigerator and be sure to use them within a week.

The best way to preserve squash and pumpkin is to freeze them. Recommended varieties of squash for freezing include acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, golden delicious, hubbard and spaghetti squash.

The best pumpkin to use for cooking and baking is one of the smaller, sweet varieties known as pie pumpkins, such as varieties titled Peek-a-Boo, Sugar Treat, Dickinson Fields, Baby Pam, Triple Treat, Kentucky Field, Buckskin and Chelsey.

Winter squash and pumpkin can be canned by cutting them into cubes and following pressure canning processing directions from a reputable source such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Pumpkin or winter squash are easy to prepare. After washing them with water, cut the vegetable in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash or pumpkin cut side down on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about one hour, or until it is tender when poked with a fork. Scoop the baked squash/pumpkin out of the rind and mash it. You can also add desired seasonings such as salt, pepper, butter, etc. Another idea to serve squash or pumpkins is to flip the squash over after baking and add stuffing, such as cooked, wild rice with cranberries and pecans in the bowl of the squash and serve.  Delicious! 

The SNAP-ED Connection website also has low cost, nutritious recipes for preparing and using winter squash. Michigan State University Extension has a variety of fact sheets with storing and preserving information for Michigan grown vegetables and fruits at the Michigan Fresh website

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