One of Susan Miller’s favorite things about fall, aside from the colors, scents and falling temps, is squash. The orange, yellow, green and brown skins of fall squash mirror the colors of changing leaves.
“The colors perfectly capture this season of change, and the flavors are deep and rich,” said the farmers market vendor from Grandview Farm in Fremont. “I don’t do anything elaborate with my butternut squash — just slice it in half, brush the cut side with a little olive oil or butter, roast it and eat it.”
Miller scoops out the seeds, cleans them off and roasts them, too, because her grandkids love eating them just like pumpkin seeds.
The nondescript, pale brown skin of the butternut squash gives no hint of the vibrant orange flesh it’s protecting. And that brilliant orange is what attracted the attention of Lincoln artist Margaret Berry.
“I don’t do anything special to it, either,” Berry said. “But I like mine sweet, so I roast it with butter and brown sugar.”
Berry prefers the flavor and color of the butternut squash over the more familiar acorn squash. The butternut squash has a firmer texture, and it stores in a cool, dry place for much longer than acorn squash. Butternut squash will keep for 6 months, while acorn squash typically lasts less than four weeks.
Acorn squash has a dainty little acorn-shape, tapering to a point just like the tree nut it resembles. With green-to-orange-colored skin, its orange flesh is softer than butternut, so it bakes quickly and mashes easily. Acorn squash seeds are every bit as delectable roasted as other pumpkin and squash seeds.
“I don’t throw away any pumpkin or squash seeds,” Miller said. “They’re all edible and taste just about the same roasted.”
Speaking of roasted seeds, if Dan Hromas of Prairie Pride Poultry near York has to pick a favorite thing about fall and pumpkins, it’s definitely roasted pumpkin seeds. He’s been carving the top off of pumpkins, scooping out and roasting the seeds and pureeing the flesh to bake pumpkin pies since he was a kid. About four years ago, he diversified his chicken farm and added veggies.
“We grow just about anything you can put in an omelet,” Hromas said.
Right now, he has all kinds of squash and pumpkins, and he says he really can’t pick a favorite pumpkin recipe.
“I love pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake and even homemade pumpkin ice cream," he said. "To make all of these, I first make pumpkin puree. I make and freeze the pumpkin puree and use it throughout the winter in all of my favorite baked pumpkin things. I just substitute it cup for cup in place of those name-brand canned purees.”
Hromas doesn’t have a recipe for his pumpkin puree, but recommended finding one on the internet that appeals to your tastes.
Roasting is the preferred method of cooking most squash, too. With a little oil, the roasting caramelizes the flesh and brings out the rich flavors of the various squashes.
Ruth Johnson of Johnson Family Farm in North Bend prefers to roast squash, but when there’s time, she’ll stuff an acorn squash to make it a bit more substantial.
In the past several years, Chloe Diegel of Robinette Farms in Martell has noticed an increased interest in spaghetti squash. She’s aware that a greater number of shoppers are gluten-free, and spaghetti squash is a naturally gluten-free option that pairs well with nearly anything you’d put on regular pasta.
She’ll make a meat sauce and put it on spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti noodles. She loves spaghetti squash with pesto, and when she doesn’t have a ton of time to cook, she tosses it with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
On her farmers market visit, Lydia Arnold of Lincoln picked out two reddish orange red kuri squash. The orange flesh has a rich, buttery flavor. Because she is gluten-free, Arnold uses the baked or roasted red kuri squash in place of spaghetti.
“The skin is too tough for me to peel, so I bake it whole,” Arnold said. “They’re much easier to cut open after they’ve baked, and then I take out the seeds, scrape out the baked squash and top it with whatever spaghetti sauce I have.”
Often, there’s more squash than she can eat at one time, so she reheats the leftovers in a double boiler or in a skillet on the stove with oil and butter.
You can carve open a red kuri squash, remove the seeds and roast it just like other fall squash and pumpkins, but you’ll need a sharp knife and a bit of muscle to get through the thick skin.
As with most squash and pumpkins harvested in the fall, you don’t need special pots or colanders in which to cook them. They’ve developed hard outer shells that are often difficult to peel, so you can bake or roast the squash right in its skin.
One of the best things about most squash and pumpkins, beyond the rich flavors and relatively long shelf lives, is that you can roast and freeze them.
“And use it in recipes throughout the winter,” Hromas said.