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15th November 2021

Winter squash – beyond the butternut

Make the most of this seasonal favourite by looking beyond the typical carving pumpkin
Winter squash – beyond the butternut
Photo: Katie Hourigan @ The Mancunion

The days are shortening and winter squash of all shapes and sizes, having been harvested and cured, are stacked and tumbling in their supermarket crates. 

Curing in natural light (for roughly 10-14 days) sets aside time for excess water to evaporate out of the fruit – the skin or rind then hardens, providing a barrier against rot, and condensing the natural sugars to give a sweeter flesh. As long as it’s not cut, this process allows squash to be kept for months on the windowsill, kitchen table, or any dry place – unlike bagged salad or other more delicate veg, there should be little room for waste.

Yet in 2020, food charity Hubbub found that more than half of the 24 million pumpkins carved for Halloween in the UK were not eaten. Whilst cheap to buy and easy to carve, supermarket pumpkins bred for lanterns will generally be much less sweet than other varieties, adding to the likelihood of the flesh being thrown away.

Whether carving a lantern or just making dinner, why not look beyond the traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkin, or the well-known but rarely in-season butternut and try another of these varieties. Find the more unusual at Eighth Day Co-op on Oxford Road or Unicorn Groceries in Chorlton. 

Crown Prince – pale blue skin, cantaloupe coloured flesh, an F1 seed bred for its sweetness. 

Uchi Kuri, or Red Onion – A bright orange, perfect round, with a floury texture and slightly chestnut / smoky taste. 

Kabocha or Japanese – deep green and knobbly skin, with buttery yellow flesh. 

Spaghetti squash – yellow and a more oblong shape, that forms long, delicate strands when cooked (can then be treated like spaghetti)

Tromboncino – a climbing squash, butternut in colour, that takes the shape of a regal, ridiculous trumpet. 

Oregon homestead sweet meat – may be difficult to find, but it’s got a beautiful name. 

Once you’ve carved your pumpkin, roast and blend the flesh to make a golden soup, or use as a substitute in a batter of a carrot cake-style bake. The seeds can be saved, rinsed free of any orange strands and then toasted to add to salads, or to snack on with salt.

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