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Apr 11, 2011 11:38 AM

Butternut squash!

So a coupleof weeks ago i bought some butternut squashes on a whim, as i don't usually choose them. they were fairly small, and i roasted them - they were perfect! Deep orange, sweet, starchy...
Since then I've bought a couple more, these were larger, and after roasting were pale orange, watery and stringy :/ Those perfect ones were literally the only butternut squash i've ever eaten that i actually realy enjoyed. Was it just a one off? Are butternut squashes SUPPOSED to be pale orange and fairly watery/stringy? Is it a size thing, as i noticed the good ones were smaller than other ones? I was so excited to find an readily available winter squash that i loved, but i'm starting to get a bit disheartened. Please tell me what the butternut squash you buy is like!!

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  1. I wonder if the stringy, watery squash was old. They should be deep orange and more like cooked yams, not spaghetti squash.

    1. First, for mashed squash we much prefer a butterCup type of squash and like the sweetness, dryness and good keeping qualities of Confection, a kabocha type squash. Last year I also grew a Pennsylvania butterNut with a long neck, swayed by the description that Amish folk like it for pies. This is also an excellent keeping squash. But it's sweeter and drier if I roast it. I think all butterNut types are too watery compared to butterCups.
      If you can identify the exact variety of squash when you buy it, I think you'll be better off but this will probably only be possible at some farm stands and markets. There are dozens of varieties and even different growing conditions are going to affect the flavor. But for a better chance of dryness and sweetness, I suggest you buy a butterCup ... and look for a label that identifies it as kabocha. These will look like dark green pumpkins although Confection is gray (I've never seen it at a market).

      Time of year is also going to affect taste. My squash have been in storage since last September. Confection gets tastier after a few weeks in storage. Now, at the end of the storage year, the flavor is going to be a little duller.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dfrostnh

        I completely concur on the kabocha/buttercup - I have never had Confection though I've looked for it at farmstands. Some butternuts are drier and tastier than others - I once made the mistake of buying two of them just-picked at the start of the harvest. Watery and flavorless. When I went back to the farmstand a week later, I bought more but stored them for over a month - those were good. I only discovered kabochas a couple of years ago and have not bought butternut since. I have never had a bad kabocha. Be forewarned that they have a large seed cavity - the flesh is less than an inch thick on a typical one. Bake halved, skin side down - the skin will then come off very easily, unlike that of butternut.

        1. re: greygarious

          yes - I, too, have realized the variable qualities of the butternut squash - The first time, (when I fell in love with them - they always say the first is the best! LOL ) I had bought a large orange one - the next time a different market only had much smaller ones - and I bought three of them - they lacked the depth of flavor. I am looking forward to attempting the kabocha this week.

      2. I think it's a seasonality thing. I roast a lot of squash for my 1-yr old son (loves it!) so we've been eating it year-round this year, and I have definately noticed that they get smaller and the flavor has not been the same this spring. I'll keep doing it for him since he loves it, but wait for fall to really enjoy it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jboeke

          My son also loved squash (and sweet potatoes, and carrots, and cantaloupe - all things yellow/orange) when he was that age. So much so that the tip of his nose turned yellow from the beta-c intake!!!

          1. re: sandylc

            My parents managed to give me an orange glow from insane beta-carotene intake when I was young. At least it was just his nose!

        2. You'll definitely do better buying your winter squash from a farmers market in the fall for variety and quality. Weather does affect it. Winter squash require a long growing season and if it's been a wet one, or is wet for a good period of time as the squash approaches maturity, it can end up pale, watery and stringy. Not much the farmer can do about that.

          Squash are extremely easy to store through the winter. They like the same storage temps you do- 68F-72F degrees. So in the fall when the winter squash are starting to appear at the farmers markets, try a few out, decide which ones you like best, and then purchase a large quantity and store them. Mine reside in a half bushel basket in an out of the way corner of our living room. Decorative and useful! My current favorite is Delicata but I don't think I've met a winter squash I didn't like!

          2 Replies
          1. re: morwen

            Morwen, that's interesting about the storage. I've never stored winter squash at room temperature before. Have you stored butternut? How long will they keep that way?

            1. re: noodlepoodle

              I store all varieties of winter squash this way. Acorns, butternuts, delicatas, kabuchas, cheese, spaghetti, pumpkins, whatever we grow and some that we buy in. Look for squash that have hard skins somewhat difficult to puncture with your thumbnail, and have about an inch of stem left on top. Those are the ones that have matured and "cured" properly for storage. The skins will change color during storage, some of the green ones going kind of orange-ish, but that's normal. As long as the squash is firm and sound it's still good. We ate our last squash (a delicata) around the beginning of March and it had gone pretty orange on the outside but was still fine. Don't wash them before storage or you'll remove some of the natural protective film that helps to prolong them.

              Sweet potatoes will store well the same way the only difference being that you should wrap each one in newspaper, store them only two layers deep (I use cardboard box lids) and keep them out of the light (I shove them under the bed). Sweet potatoes actually improve in flavor if stored this way but you should eat the small ones first because they won't keep as long as the large ones. Same as squash, don't wash before storage. Just brush off any loose dirt before wrapping. If you grow your own sweets, after you dig them up put them in a single layer in a dry shady place with good air circulation and allow them to "cure" for a week or two before wrapping.

              If you "root cellar" produce around the house, it's a good idea to keep a note somewhere of where you have things stashed. I didn't when I started doing this and when temperatures warm up, finding decaying veg by following your nose isn't a pleasant task!

          2. it seems that we have real experts on this thread with regard to winter squash - i am totally new to them - just fell in love cooking butternuts. Please suggest a few ways to cook the kabocha that is waiting for me to experiment with. I thought these would be a healthy choice as my house has jumped on the weight loss path so the "lots of butter" route wouldn't be a good choice for us.

            14 Replies
            1. re: smilingal

              Have you tried kabocha plain? Cut it into large chunks, steam or simmer till tender. I like it without adding anything. Eating the skin is optional.

              It can also be cut into smaller pieces, coated with a bit of oil, salt and pepper, and roaster.

              Or open up the top like a pumpkin, clean, fill with stuffing of your choice, and bake. For special occasions I've stuffed it with bread, ham, cheese, and cream, but a lower fat stuffing should also work.

              1. re: paulj

                i think I will bake it this time - but the stuffing suggestion sounds wonderful - and then I can become creative with lean chopped meat, onions, does cumin work into this? - not sure of the flavor of the squash, diced tomatoes? (is this too watery?) - and then how long to bake (knowing that I will have already pan cooked the meat mixture) - at what temp?

              2. re: smilingal

                Baked kabocha tastes like a cross between butternut and a sweet potato. I like it plain - no salt, no pepper, no butter necessary. I have never used a wet cooking method on it, though.

                1. re: greygarious

                  ok - so I think I will try baking the first time - - what temp and how long - and I am assuming to cut it in half and place cut side down?

                  1. re: smilingal

                    Yes, halved, cut side down. Temp? Eh, doesn't much matter. 325-375. I usually put a parchment sheet on the pan so I don't need to scrub. Until you can tell it's tender when you stick a knife through the skin. Maybe 30-45 min, depending on size and temp.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      ok - tonight's the night! on a side note - is there a reason why you might prefer parchment over tin foil? I never think of parchment - unless I am baking cookies and stuff. I usually use tin foil sprayed with pam.

                      1. re: smilingal

                        reporting in - we loved it - it was more watery than I expected - and took a bit longer than I planned - and next time I think I will turn the halves over the last 15 minutes to get more carmelization or dry out a bit more. Tried nutmeg - meh - tried garlic salt - meh - decided Kosher salt and pepper is the way we prefer.

                        Next attempt will be spaghetti squash.

                      2. re: greygarious

                        I find that I have to bake squash past the time of "tender when you stick a knife thru the skin" but that mostly depends on how big the squash is. The bigger the squash, the more time it needs past the skin/knife test. The flesh closest to the skin is tender the the innermost flesh needs a few more minutes.

                        1. re: alwayshungrygal

                          I meant that, like a potato, you can feel how tender the flesh is by poking a knife through the skin. Though in the case of kabocha, the flesh layer is thin enough that if the skin gives way easily, it's a good slgn the flesh is done.

                        2. re: greygarious

                          I don't know if anyone has said this or not but I peel mine and cube it, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, spread out on a half-sheet pan without touching (important for lots of caramelization) in a 450 degree oven. Turn over after about 15 minutes for more browning, if you want. Takes about 25 minutes total. Turns out really sweet and delicious.

                          1. re: MrsJonesey

                            I do this too. Butternut squash is one of the easiest squash to peel, so I think this is preferable to splitting, scooping, roasting, scooping, etc.

                            1. re: MrsJonesey

                              Me, too - that is how I begin my soup and butternut squash risotto.

                              Has anyone else discovered crispy chips? Slice thinly with mandoline, season, bake. Lovely.

                              1. re: chefathome

                                Butternut used to be my go-to squash mainly because it was so easy to peel.... Then I discovered kabocha and there has been no turning back!

                                For the uber simple, I love roasting kabocha wedges (no need to peel) at 425F for 30 minutes, flipping once, with some hazelnut oil, and salt and pepper. For a simple sandwich, I like to wrap it in a collard leaf with cucumber and avocado. I know it sounds so weird, but it is so good!!!


                              2. re: MrsJonesey

                                I did this just last weekend instead of roasting it whole. Used butter instead of olive oil which I find a bit more flavorful than olive oil. It's also god with feta cheese on top after roasting. I also like it mashed (again, after roasting) with maple syrup and butter. I just wish it was available all year round, I never get tired of winter squash.