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Piled high on wooden tabletops at the markets in the fall, winter squash, with their hard, colorful shells and varied silhouettes, make a quirky harvest still life. It’s not surprising that many cooks shy away from unfamiliar varieties – a bumpy, grayish fifteen-pound ‘Blue Hubbard’, for example can be intimidating. But it needn’t be. Once you get comfortable with the basics of handling winter squash, you can approach any one with confidence, and take advantage of its delicious possibilities.

Certain squash lend themselves especially well to certain preparations. Here are some you are likely to encounter in the market, and several ways to use them. ‘Acorn’ squash typically have green or orange skin and are shaped, as you might guess, like large acorns. Sized just right for one or two servings, their mild flavor can be enhanced by baking with a bit of brown sugar. ‘Sweet Dumpling’ and ‘Delicata’ squash are also small, single-serving varieties. Both have skin that is tender enough to eat, and they’re ideal for roasting and stuffing. ‘Butternut’, the popular peanut-shaped squash, has sweet, fine-textured flesh that makes a delicious puree; unlike many varieties, its skin is thin enough to peel without too much trouble. Hubbard-type squash have rough, dark green-blue or orange-red skin, and dry, nutty flesh that tastes great roasted, and is even better pureed and used for baking. ‘Buttercup’, a medium, drum-shaped squash, has orange flesh similar to ‘Butternut’, only sweeter and more intensely colored.

Whether it’s and acorn, delicata, butternut or spaghetti, winter squash recipes are stable on fall dinner tables. Pick your favorite kind, choose a recipe, and get cooking! As far as I’m concerned, you can’t have enough delicious, healthy soup recipes when the cold winds start to blow and this Copycat Panera Autumn Squash Soup is both!

“October’s poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter.”
~ Nova S. Blair

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