The Ultimate Guide to Wonderful Winter Squash!


About Winter Squash

Winter squash seems to be one of those crops that new gardeners seem to find most confusing. It has got to be the name. Winter squash is a bit of a misnomer since the squash is not meant to be grown in the winter, but actually grown throughout the summer and harvested by late fall. It's tough outer and edible skin, perfect by design, makes it possible to store most of the winter. 

As winter descends upon us, it may feel like gardens are barren, but there's a hidden gem that thrives in the colder months - winter squash. Winter squash seems to be one of those crops that new gardeners seem to find most confusing. It has got to be the name.

Winter squash is a bit of a misnomer since the squash is not meant to be grown in the winter, but actually grown throughout the summer and harvested by late fall. It's tough outer and edible skin, perfect by design, makes it possible to store most of the winter. On top of withstanding the chill, winter squash also brings a burst of color, flavor, and nutrition to our tables. Here we'll explore how to grow winter squash, delve into its numerous benefits, and throw in a way you can prepare it this winter! 

Winter Squash is an annual vegetable that is part of the Cucurbit family. Some of the popular cultivars are butternut, delicata, acorn and spaghetti squash. There's an incredibly diverse amount of squash in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes, but most known varieties of winter squash fall under three species: 

  • Cucurbita pepo
  • C. moschata
  • C. maxima

Below we'll list some of the familiar varieties we've grown on the farm. Again, keep in mind there are a TON of amazing different squash to experiment with!


Butternut Squash (Cucurbita moschata):

 Appearance: Creamy beige exterior with a bulbous bottom and a long neck.

Flavor Profile: Sweet and nutty, with a smooth texture.

Best Uses: Roasting, pureeing for soups, and incorporating into casseroles.


Acorn Squash


(Cucurbita pepo):


Appearance: Small and acorn-shaped with a ridged exterior, typically dark green or orange.
Flavor Profile: Mildly sweet and nutty.
Best Uses: Baking, stuffing, and roasting.


Spaghetti Squash (Cucurbita pepo):



 Appearance: Yellow, oblong, and medium-sized.
Flavor Profile: Mild and slightly sweet, with a unique stringy texture.
Best Uses: Roasting and using the strands as a low-carb substitute for pasta.

Delicata Squash (Cucurbita pepo):



 Appearance: Creamy or pale yellow with green stripes, cylindrical shape.
Flavor Profile: Sweet, creamy, and tender skin.
Best Uses: Roasting, sautéing, or stuffing.

 Red Kuri Squash (Cucurbita maxima):


 Appearance: Thick orange skin with yellow/orange flesh that I find usually has a hint of green.

Flavor Profile: Nutty, delicate and mild with a texture similar to sweet potato.
Best Uses: Baking, roasting, or making purees.

Growing Winter Squash

The good news is winter squash is relatively easy to grow, making them a rewarding addition to any garden. 

  • Planting:
    • Winter squash prefers well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. Start by planting seeds indoors in the spring or directly sow them into the ground when the soil has warmed up. Give them enough space to spread and thrive.
    • plan to transplant as early as possible when there are no more
      frost risks. This is essential, because winter squash have a long growing season.
    • When direct sowing sow 3 to 4 seeds close together in small mounds (or hills; the soil is warmer off the ground) in rows 3 to 6 feet apart.
    • Whether transplanting you want at least 36" spacing between plants. 
    • Be prepared to install sturdy trellising as most varieties will vine out and get heavy once the fruit comes in.
  • Watering:
    • Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the growing season. However, be cautious not to overwater, as squash plants are susceptible to root rot.
    • Strive to keep foliage dry to help prevent diseases. Drip irrigation is recommended. 
  • Fertilizing
    • Winter squash plants benefit from tons of rich, organic compost. Fertilize the soil before planting and provide additional nutrients as the plants grow.
    • Amend soil before planting and when first blossoms appear
  • Pollination:
    • Most winter squash varieties require pollination to produce fruit. Bees and other pollinators play a crucial role, so encourage their presence in your garden.
  • Weeding
    • Plan to weed once or twice before the vines start to cover the soil and your rows.
    • Watch patches for weeds going to seed
  • Harvesting
    • Harvest squash when the fruits have reached full size, and the rinds are tough. Cut them from the vine, leaving a few inches of stem attached. Cure the squash by storing them in a warm, dry place for a couple of weeks before enjoying.
    • Since all fruit won't be ready to harvest all at once, be prepared to do two waves.
    • Golden Rule of the winter squash harvest: if you harvest too soon, you lose flavor. If you wait too long, you lose storage capacity.

At any time, you can prune dead, damaged or diseased leaves and shoots. Vining winter squash have one or more main stems with secondary and tertiary vines which will need maintenance. Any pruning should be done while cool outside to avoid shock to the plant. 


Culinary Applications


  1. Roasting:

    • Winter squash's natural sweetness intensifies when roasted. Simply toss cubed squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast until caramelized for a delightful side dish or a flavorful addition to salads.
  2. Soups and Stews:

    • The creamy texture of winter squash makes it an ideal candidate for soups and stews. Butternut squash, in particular, shines in silky bisques, while heartier varieties like Hubbard or Kabocha add substance to winter stews.
  3. Stuffing:

    • Acorn and Delicata squash can be halved and filled with savory stuffing for a visually stunning and tasty dish. The squash's natural sweetness complements the savory notes of traditional stuffing ingredients.
  4. Purees and Mashes:

    • Winter squash purees, whether standalone or blended with other vegetables, create velvety side dishes. Mashed squash, seasoned with herbs and spices, provides a delightful alternative to mashed potatoes.
  5. Baking and Desserts:

    • Buttercup, Turban, and Kabocha squash lend themselves well to baking. From pies to muffins, the sweet, dense flesh of these varieties imparts a unique flavor and moisture to baked goods.
  6. Pasta Alternatives:

    • Spaghetti squash, when cooked, transforms into strands resembling spaghetti noodles. Toss with your favorite sauces for a low-carb, gluten-free alternative to pasta.
  7. Sautéing:

    • Delicata squash, with its tender skin, is well-suited for sautéing. Slice it into rings or half-moons and cook in a skillet with butter or oil for a quick and delicious side dish.

Benefits of Winter Squash

Beyond their delicious taste, winter squash offers an array of health benefits, making them a valuable addition to your diet. Here are some reasons to include more winter squash in your meals.

  • Rich in Nutrients: Winter squash is a powerhouse of essential nutrients, including vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. These nutrients contribute to immune health, eye health, and overall well-being.
  • Low in Calories: For those watching their calorie intake, winter squash is a great option. It provides a satisfying, sweet flavor without a high calorie count.
  • Antioxidant Properties: The vibrant colors of winter squash, such as the deep orange of butternut squash, signify the presence of antioxidants like beta-carotene. These compounds help combat oxidative stress in the body.
  • Heart Health: The potassium content in winter squash supports heart health by helping regulate blood pressure. The fiber content also contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system.


Creamy Butternut Squash Recipe!


  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of celery finely chopped 
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup coconut milk or heavy cream (optional for added creaminess)
  • Fresh parsley or chives for garnish (optional)


  1. Prepare the Vegetables:

    • Peel and dice the butternut squash.
    • Chop the onion, carrots, and celery
  2. Sauté Aromatics:

    • In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
    • Add chopped onion and garlic, sauté until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add Vegetables:

    • Stir in the diced butternut squash, carrots, and celery.
    • Cook for 5-7 minutes, allowing the vegetables to slightly caramelize.
  4. Seasonings:

    • Add ground cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
    • Stir to coat the vegetables with the seasonings.
  5. Cooking:

    • Pour in the vegetable broth, ensuring it covers the vegetables.
    • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
    • Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Blend:

    • Using an immersion blender or transferring in batches to a regular blender, puree the soup until smooth and creamy.
  7. Finish:

    • Return the soup to the pot if using a blender.
    • Stir in coconut milk or heavy cream for added creaminess (if desired).
    • Adjust seasoning according to taste.
  8. Serve:

    • Garnish with fresh parsley or chives if desired.
Enjoy!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This butternut squash soup is not only rich and velvety but also packed with the warm flavors of the season. Adjust the consistency and seasonings according to your preference, and feel free to get creative with additional toppings or spices.
Winter squash is not just a garden delight but also a nutritional powerhouse with a range of culinary possibilities. So, embrace the season, savor the harvest, and let winter squash take center stage on your dinner table.

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