Taming of the edible gourd

Winter squash can be easily sliced with just a minute or two in the microwave.

Edible gourds or winter squash are nutrient rich vegetables that can be used in a variety of fall recipes. Common types of winter squash are acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, Hubbard and spaghetti squash. Winter squash are usually larger than summer squash and always have a thick outer rind. Make sure that you make sure to carefully inspect squash for sunken or moldy spots, or cuts or punctures in the skin. These types of blemishes can cause the whole squash to easily rot.

One cup of deep orange winter squash has over 200 percent of recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Winter squash also has a third of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C which will help combat unwanted inflammation. It also boasts omega-3 fats and other anti-inflammatory compounds to help protect the body’s heart and blood vessels. The fiber in squash also helps maintain GI and regular bowel function. Squash is also a source of B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and may also help regulate blood sugar.

Winter squash is available September through December. If the squash is in good condition, it can last up to 3 months if stored in a cool dry place (50-60 degrees F) and can be used in a variety of ways. It can be pureed into a thick and creamy consistency and served with butter, salt and pepper or sweetened up with a little dab of cinnamon and maple syrup. Steamed pieces of squash can be tossed with olive oil and flavored with soy sauce and ginger.

The stringy flesh of spaghetti squash can even be used in place of pasta noodles and served with your favorite pasta or Alfredo sauce. Cubes of any type of winter squash are a hearty addition to your favorite vegetable soup. The seeds from winter squash can also be roasted just like pumpkin seeds. In a single layer on a cookie sheet, bake cleaned seeds at 160-170 degrees F for 15-20 minutes and then season with salt or smoky paprika.

The biggest challenge to using winter squash is its tough external rind. With a minute or two in the microwave it can be softened and easily cut in half. Make sure to wash the rind of the squash before cutting to eliminate any bacteria from being transferred to the inside when cutting though the squash. Using a large knife and steady cutting board, cut off the stem. Then pierce the rind a few times with a knife or fork and microwave for a few minutes to soften. The squash will be hot to the touch, remove with care.

Use a metal spoon to help scrape out the seeds and fibers from the inside cavity. The squash can then be baked in the rind at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or microwaved on high for 8-12 minutes. To determine if the winter squash is done, insert a knife or fork into the flesh of the squash. It will be easily inserted and removed when the squash is done cooking. Remove the squash from the rind and stir in other ingredients if desired. To use squash in a soup, cut the rind off, cube the squash and add to the soup. To create a puree boil for 7 minutes to soften sufficiently.

For more information about using, storing and preserving winter squash, visit the Michigan State University Extension Michigan Fresh winter squash fact sheets.

Squash-Apple Casserole

Yield – 6 servings


  • 2 ½ cups of winter squash (acorn, butternut or hubbard)
  • 1 ½ cup of cooking apples (Macintosh, Granny Smith or Rome)
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon


  1. Wash and prepare squash and apples (for extra fiber, keep peel on apples).
  2. Alternate layers of squash and apples in 8x8 inch pan; end with apples.
  3. Sprinkle spices over top layer.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until squash is tender.


Per recipe: $1.55
Per serving: $0.26

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