Squash, sometimes referred to as winter squash, is one of the quintessential foods of the fall season. With the fall harvest comes myriad varieties of squash, some well-known and others exotic, to roast and bake with. At the NAA, we love the nutritional benefits of these squash, especially how well they support the skin through seasonal changes with their often high content of beta carotene and vitamin C. This week we share and celebrate our individual favorite winter squash varieties, to call attention to their nutrition benefits as well as give you inspiration for cooking with them this fall.
NAA Favorite Squash Varieties
Tisha’s Favorite: Acorn Squash
Acorn squash, which is sometimes referred to as Pepper squash is a hard-shelled winter squash from the same family as the common zucchini, Cucurbita pepo. It is traditionally a dark green squash and is, as its name implies, shaped like an acorn. New varieties pair the same iconic shape and rich yellow flesh in a golden, white or variegated exterior skin.
This squash’s innards are delightful steamed or roasted. Their small size and distinctive shape make them a natural for festive tabletop decorations and acorn squash halves make ideal individual serving dishes stuffed with fixings. One of my favorite ways to make is make acorn squash a fancy treat is this recipe from Martha Stewart herself; it is a good thing. I recommend that you substitute nutritional yeast for the feta to increase its skin-smart quotient.
However, acorn squash are more than just pretty adornments for your plate- they also nourish your pretty skin! This squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, as well as vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Acorn squash is also full of antioxidant vitamin A which gives you an immune boost and hastens skin healing.
Rachael’s Favorite: Kabocha Squash
My favorite squash is the bumpy, yet colorful kabocha squash. My love for kabocha squash started out as a simple matter of convenience–the peel is edible (when cooked)! Some squashes can be rather cumbersome to peel before cooking, but kabocha can easily be cut in half and roasted alone or stuffed with other delicious vegetables, or diced and added to any autumn stew, mash, or pureé–skin on. While the flesh of the squash itself is rich with many of the same skin-healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants of other squashes, the skin itself adds a healthy dose of fiber to your meal. Fiber is essential for healthy skin, from the inside out.
Though kabocha squash is often associated with Japanese and Thai cuisine, it is grown locally in the United States and New Zealand. In the fall and winter, it is easily found in most farmer’s markets, making it a fresh, local, nutrient-dense sweet and savory treat. Though its flavor is similar to other winter squashes, it blends particularly well with Asian herbs and spices. One of my favorite ways to use kabocha squash is in a thick, hearty soup like this Thai Coconut Soup with Kabocha Squash recipe.
Jolene’s Favorite: Delicata Squash
Each fall I look forward to the first delicata squash, a favorite food that is versatile enough to work as a meal staple during this season. Delicata squash are oblong and pale yellow, mottled with dark green stripes and spots on their peel, which becomes edible when cooked. Rather than smooth, delicatas have a unique scalloped edge that makes for beautiful rings or semi-circles when sliced for roasting. But my favorite part of delicatas is by far their flavor—mild, sweet, and just the right combination of soft flesh and toothsome peel.
Like other varieties of winter squash mentioned above, delicata squash is a major beauty food. Just 3/4 of a cup of cooked delicata squash packs 70% of your daily RDA for anti-aging vitamin A, and a nice dose of collagen-boosting C. Try roasting Delicatas in coconut oil, seasoned with classic sea salt and fresh ground pepper, or try my sweet and savory Honey Cardamom Roasted Delicata Squash. I serve it as a side dish, or wrap the roasted squash pieces in corn tortillas, topped with fresh veggies and avocado slices for an easy fall take on a taco. I also like drying and roasting their seeds as a mineral-rich snack.
Acorn squash photo: Oregon Department of Agriculture
Kabocha squash photo: Viry Magallanez
Delicata squash photo: Dyogi
We want to hear from you!
What is your favorite winter squash variety?
How do you recommend preparing it for optimal skin benefits?