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Acorn squash

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

While not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes, acorn squash is an outstanding source of dietary fiber and supplies some vitamin C, B vitamins, and a substantial amount of potassium, along with some magnesium and manganese. With its deeply-ridged, dark-green shell and yellow-orange flesh, acorn squash makes a handsome presentation when halved and baked.

Varieties

The most commonly available acorn squash is the familiar dark-green squash. However, there are a couple of new varieties available: Golden Acorn is a glowing pumpkin color, and Table Queen is white. All varieties have yellow-orange flesh.

Availability

Acorn squashes are available throughout the year, but because they are harvested in the late summer and early fall, they are more plentiful from autumn through winter.

Shopping

Clues to good quality are a smooth, dry rind, free of cracks or soft spots. Moreover, the rind should be dull; a shiny rind indicates that the squash was picked too early, and will not have the full sweetness of a mature specimen.

Deep color is also a sign of a good acorn squash. Green acorn squash may have splashes of orange, but avoid any that has orange on more than half its surface. An acorn squash should feel heavy for its size.

Storage

Acorn squash keeps for a long time--three months or longer--if stored in a cool, dry place. Refrigerator temperatures will cause it to deteriorate more quickly, but you can keep an uncut squash in the refrigerator for a week or two.

Preparation

Rinse off any dirt before using. The hard shell of acorn squash can prove challenging to cut: Use a sturdy chef's knife or a cleaver. First, make a shallow cut in the skin to use as a guide to prevent the knife blade from slipping. Then place the blade in the cut and tap the base of the knife (near the handle) with your fist (or, if necessary, with a mallet or rolling pin) until the squash is cut through.

Scoop out the seeds and fibers. Because acorn squash is difficult to peel, it is most often cooked as unpeeled halves. However, if you want to peel it, the easiest way to do it is to cut it into lengthwise wedges first, and then peel the strips. You can then cut the squash into smaller chunks, if desired.

Baking: This method brings out the sweetness in acorn squash, caramelizing some of its sugars. Bake halved squash and serve plain; or bake, then fill with a stuffing and return to the oven until the stuffing is heated through (10 to 15 minutes). You can also bake squash halves, then scoop out and mash the flesh with your favorite seasonings; spoon the mashed squash back into the shells (sprinkle with grated cheese, breadcrumbs, chopped nuts, or sesame seeds, if desired) and return to the oven until heated through.)

To bake, halve squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place the squash, cut-side down, in a foil-lined baking pan (its sugary juices may burn onto the pan). Pour about 1/4" of water into the pan, cover with foil, and bake in a 350°F to 400°F oven until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife or toothpick. Halfway through baking, the squash halves may be turned, cut-side up, brushed with a little melted butter or oil, and sprinkled with brown sugar and spices. Cooking time: 40 to 45 minutes.

Microwaving: Arrange squash halves, cut-side up, in a shallow microwavable dish, cover, and cook until tender, rotating the dish halfway through the cooking time. Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes.

Sautéing: Grated or diced squash can be sautéed in broth, or in a combination of broth and oil. Grated squash is best if it is cooked just to the point where it is still slightly crunchy. Cooking time: 8 to 15 minutes.

Steaming: Place seeded squash halves, cut-side down, in a vegetable steamer and cook over boiling water until tender. Or, cook peeled chunks or slices of squash in the steamer. Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes.

Nutrition Chart

Acorn Squash/1 cup cubes cooked

115
Total fat (g)
0.3
Saturated fat (g)
0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
9
2
Carbohydrate (g)
30
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
8
Vitamin C (mg)
22
Thiamin (mg)
0.3
Vitamin B6 (mg)
0.4
Magnesium (mg)
88
Manganese (mg)
0.5
Potassium (mg)
896


Date Published: 02/21/2005
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