Winter Squashes

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Winter squashes were domesticated in the Americas beginning around 5000 BCE. They are both nutritious—many are rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids as well as starch—and versatile. The flesh of most varieties is firm enough to sauté or stew in chunks (fibrous spaghetti squash is an exception), but once cooked it also can be pureed to a very fine consistency; and its moderate sweetness makes it suitable for both savory and sweet preparations, from soups or side dishes to pies and custards. Their tough, dry skin and hollow structure encourage their use as edible containers; they can be filled with sweet or savory liquids, then baked, and eaten along with their contents. Winter squashes can be stored for months and many are available year-round, but they’re at their prime shortly after harvest in late fall. They keep best at a temperature around 55°F/15°C and in relatively dry conditions (50–70% relative humidity).