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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

5 Types of Autumn Squash

My newly acquired squash collection ;)
It's the end of October already!  Halloween is this weekend.  Winter squash and pumpkins are fresh, plentiful, inexpensive and perhaps even on sale this time of year.  I ran across one such sale at a local farm stand around the corner from my home (the corner of Brighton Rd. and Chilson in Brighton, MI if anyone lives near me and is interested.) Of course I had to stock up!

Winter squash are extremely useful for cooking. Most smooth fleshed winter squash (like those listed below) can be used interchangeably in baking, chili recipes, soup recipes or others. While their flesh does vary slightly in flavor, all tend to be sweet and have the same basic flavor profile.  You can find many recipes for squash by doing a simple Google search, visiting any of the cooking sites listed to the right of this post, or by viewing 2 of my posts listed here:

Recipe for Squash Puree, Squash Scones & Squash Butter
Recipe for Roasted & Mashed Squash and Squash Soup

Did you know?
You can roast, salt and eat the seeds of all winter squash. Once roasted, the seeds store for at least 6 months in an air tight container at room temperature.  Visit the Betty Crocker Website to learn how.

You can also save squash seed for planting next year.  Simply dig them out from the center of the squash, spread them flat onto a paper towel an allow them to dry for 3-4 days. When the seeds are dry, store them in an envelope in a cool, dry place.  Don't forget to label them so that you know what kind of squash they are! 

Squash leaves are also edible.  Simply strip the leaves off of the thick part of the ribs and stem, then add them to soup, or steam them. These last about 1 week fresh in the refrigerator. 

Happy Halloween!
I thought that I might share my top 5 favorite farm stand winter squash finds with you along with a bit of information on each type of squash.  Here they are:


Everyone is familiar with this bright orange autumn squash. Although there are many varieties, the two you generally see are either those used to make jack-o-lanterns or the smaller pie pumpkins.  Pie pumpkins have thick, sweet flesh and are commonly used for baking, especially for making pumpkin pie.  The jack-o-lanterns are not as good for eating but have thick skin and hold up well to carving.  Pie pumpkins store well for about 3 months in a cool, dry place.

My dog, Snickers, likes to use the sniff test to inspect for squash quality.

These squash are small (for a squash), green, and shaped like a giant acorn.  They have smooth, sweet, nutty flesh.  They are often used for stuffing and baking.   This squash stores well for about 3 months in a dry cool place.


This squash is elongated and tan or yellowish in color.  The flesh is orange, very sweet, and contains less fiber than a pumpkin.   This squash can be stored in a cool dry place for at least 5-6 months fairly easily and gets sweeter the longer it is stored.   This is my favorite squash for making squash butter.  I find it both sweeter and richer than pumpkin butter.


This squash is about the size of a pie pumpkin, but is green and color with silver lines through it.  Its flesh is orange, sweet and nutty.  It contains less fiber than a pumpkin. This squash can store for about 4 months in a cool dry place.

HOW TO GROW SQUASH -  the basics:

Each of these grow in about the same conditions. Plant in full sun and rich soil. If your soil is poor, add compost and/or organic fertilizer.  For more on how to improve soil, please see: My Garden Soil Articles.  Plant the seeds 1-2 inches deep after the average temperature is around 70F (21C) for several days.  (That would be late May to early June here in zone 5b - but watch the weather report, this is Michigan after all! The weather can change when you blink!)

 If you have a short growing season (Zone 3 or 4), you can start squash indoors, but this is not ideal. Squash do not like to be transplanted, so it is better to start them in the ground.  To ensure that this will work, either use seed from squash that grow well in your local area and/or when you purchase seed, read the seed packet to see how many days there are until the squash matures. Choose a length of maturity that is somewhat shorter than the length of time between when the average spring temperature reaches 70F (21C) and first frost date in your area.  Here in Zone 5b, that means that you should select seed that mature around 100 days (give or take) .  Seed should be simple because most squash mature between 85 and 125 days.

Compost fall leaves, squash shells & scraps to enrich your soil!
Squash vines can grow up to 30 feet in length. So be sure to leave plenty of space between the plants (at least 10 feet!).  Spacing is also important to maintain good airflow between the plants so that the leaves do not become infected with downy or powdery mildew. Consider planting in a field, in a bed along the South side of an out building or in another location where you don't mind having a low sprawling vine.  If your area is prone to flooding, make a mound about 1 foot high, and 1-2 feet wide, in which to plant the squash and/or plant in a raised bed.  If your area is dry and drains well, you do not need to do this.

One classic way to plant squash is beneath corn stalks and along side beans. It is one of the "3 sisters": corn, beans and squash.  All 3 plants enjoy rich soil and full sun.  Beans help to produce nitrogen for the corn and squash. The squash acts as a ground cover around the corn to prevent weed growth.  The corn acts as a pole for the beans to grow on. Please consider growing these 3 together.

Water the squash in the morning so that the leaves have time to dry off during the day.  This also helps to prevent downy and powdery mildew infection.  For more information on potential squash pests and what to do about this, please visit:

Harvest the squash when the fruit is large, bright in color, of good weight and when the vine starts to die away slightly.  The shell should also be hard and not easily dented with your finger.  When you cut it open, the flesh should be brightly colored.

I hope to be volunteering at the Brighton Victory Garden again this summer.  If you are willing to donate 20 hours of time to the project, and speak to Kay (the coordinator) about this in advance, she will often agree to give you a row to plant for yourself.  I plan on doing this next summer.  In my row I will be planting the squash seed that I save from the squash discussed in this article.  I am also going to try planting watermelon for the first time. Having a row in the sunny Victory Garden field will be essential to growing these plants.  My yard is both too small and too shady to grow very many of these large, sprawling plants. So, I will grow smaller vegetables in my yard (tomatoes, peppers, greens etc.) and will grow the larger ones (corn, beans, squash, melon) at the Brighton Victory Garden.  I plan to share part of my harvest with Gleaners Food Bank in keeping with the Victory Garden's mission.   Keep reading next spring and summer to see how this goes!  I will be posting about it.

For More Information / Works Cited:

A great website with a list of nearly every type of squash: "All About Pumpkins"

You can buy seed here or just read the growing instructions.  They also have a chart about squash storage and other great growing tips: "Johnny's Selected Seeds" 

"I love the smell of fresh pumpkin in the morning.  It smells like... autumn!"

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Butternut Squash Scones With Squash Butter Recipe

It is autumn.  This time of year, everyone thinks of pumpkins.  But there are several types of DELICIOUS hard-shelled squash that are fresh, inexpensive and in season.  Maybe you harvested some of your own.  Maybe you saw them sitting in a pile at the farmer's market or the grocery store and thought to yourself, "What the heck do I do with those?"   The truth is, you can use most hard-shelled squash as a replacement for pumpkin in many recipes.

There are some exceptions.  For example, you wouldn't want to use spaghetti squash to try to make a pie. It has too much fiber.  But many of the others cook up the same way pumpkin does and can be used in the same way.  These include: acorn squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash and more.

This recipe is a perfect example.  Instead of pumpkin scones, make....


First, you need to make squash puree.  The puree can be used in place of canned pumpkin puree in any baking recipe that you like.  To make the puree is simple.


Yeild: Varies by size of squash.  Usually about 4 cups for a medium squash.

Time: 50 minutes (5 minutes prep, 45 minutes waiting for it to bake in the oven while you do something else)  If you don't have time for this, purchase canned pumpkin puree.  NOT pumpkin pie mix!!


1 medium butternut squash (or other smooth-fleshed, hard shelled squash that you like) size: 3-5lbs or 1.5-2.5kg.


1. Preheat the your oven to 425F (218C).

2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

 Do not waste the seeds!  You can compost the seeds and squash innards. You could also dry the seeds and save them for planting later by spreading them flat on a paper towel and allowing them to dry.   Finally, you can roast the seeds and eat them.  There is a good recipe for this at the following link: Betty Crocker's Roast Pumpkin Seed Recipe.

3. Place the squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (paper optional) for 45 minutes.  Then, go do watch your favorite TV show, read a book or otherwise occupy yourself while the squash cooks.  I don't want to hear your whining about how long this takes. It's not like you have to stand there babysitting the oven!!! ;)

4. When the timer goes off, take the squash out of the oven.  Put on some oven mitts (safety first!) and scoop the innards out of the squash. 

5. Place a colander inside a bowl.  Put the squash innards into the colander, and weight the squash down with a plate.  Allow to drain for 15-20 minutes or so. (You can use the left-over juice in the bowl as a nutrient- rich way to water your plants, or put it in a smoothie for yourself later. You can also compost the squash shell or feed it to the deer or livestock.)

6. When the squash has drained, puree it by mashing it by hand or spinning it in a food processor until smooth. 

Next, use the mix to make the scones.


Yeild: 12 scones

Time: 40 minutes (10 minutes to prep, 30 minutes to bake)

If you don't have time for this, I am surprised you are reading this recipe!  But you could always go buy scones... they won't be as good!)


4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold butter
1 cup squash puree (see above) - you could also use canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
6 tablespoons cream, or half and half or whole milk
2 large eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 425F (218C).  Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices an a bowl.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.

3. In a different bowl, whisk the pumpkin cream (or half and half, or whole milk) and egg together.

4. Mix the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients.  Then, dust your hands with flour, and roll the
dough into a ball.

5.  Pat the dough onto a lightly floured surface until it forms a 1 inch (2cm or so) thick circle.

6. Use a pizza cutter to slice the circle into 12 pieces (just like cutting a pizza.) Try to cut the pieces to as close to the same size as possible for more even baking.

7.  Place the pieces onto the baking sheet.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the scones turn light brown.

8. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

You can serve these scones with milk, tea, coffee, butter, jam, whipped cream, cream cheese, or you may want to top it with...


Mix 1/4 cup powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon.  Place in an old spice jar with a sprinkler top or dust over the scones using a sieve.


Yield: 1 pint

Time: 30 minutes (all prep and stirring) If you don't have time, buy pumpkin butter, but it won't be as good!
(NOTE: This recipe is NOT meant for canning! Refrigerate only.)


2 cups butternut squash puree (see above) - You could also use canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or more to taste - more will make the mix spicier/zingier/hotter)
1/8 teaspoon ginger (or more to taste)
pinch sea salt (or more to taste)


1. Mix all of the ingredients listed above together in a saucepan.

2. Cook over high heat on the stove until the mixture bubbles.  Stir often.

3. Once the mix bubbles, cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Taste and adjust the seasoning and/or salt if needed.  To sweeten add more maple syrup.  To make it zestier add more cinnamon or ginger.  To make the flavor stand out a bit more, at a pinch more salt.

5. Allow the mixture to cool.  Then, transfer to a glass pint jar.  You can refrigerate this for up to 2 weeks.

6.  Use as topping for your scones.  It is also good on toast, waffles, pancakes, quick breads and oatmeal.

Happy baking, my autumnal squash lovers!! :)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Winter Squash: cooked 2 ways

Pic borrowed from

So... you see these ugly (or beautiful!) squashes at the farm stand or supermarket.  Maybe you even grew some.  But what do you do with them?  Well, here is your answer:

MASHED SQUASH (side dish):

Time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Servings: usually 4 (depends on size of squash)


1. Winter squash such as the buttercup squash shown above (do not use spaghetti squash - it is too stringy)
2. 1 tablespoon butter (or more to taste)
3. 2 tablespoons maple syrup
4. Salt and pepper
5. Brown sugar (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 425F (218C)

2. Place the squash on a baking sheet.  Cover the sheet with parchment paper if desired to make clean up easier..

3. Spread the butter over the sliced halves of the squash, then drizzle the maple syrup over the sliced halves of the squash.

4. Bake the squash at 425F (218C) for 1 hour.

5. When the squash is cooked, scoop the orange part of the squash out of the shell with a spoon and place in a bowl. (Remember to wear gloves or cooking mitts - the squash is hot!)

6. Mash the squash as you would potatoes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add more butter if desired.

7. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar if desired to add sparkle. 


Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Sevings: 6


1. One winter squash such as butternut squash (shown above), cut in half and cleaned of seeds
2. 3 tablespoons maple syrup
3. 1 tablesppoon butter
4. 1 onion, chopped
5. 1 apple, cored and chopped
6. 1 pinch dry tarragon
7. 1/8 teaspoon cardemom
8. 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
9. 1/2 cup cream
10. Water or vegetable broth to loosen
11. 1 tablespoon cooking oil
12. Salt and pepper
13. Parsley, roast pumpkin seeds, graham cracker crumble or croutons (optional for garnish)


1. Preheat the oven to 425F (218C)

2. Place the squash on a baking sheet.  Cover the sheet with parchment paper if desired to make clean up easier..

3. Spread the butter over the sliced halves of the squash, then drizzle the maple syrup over the sliced halves of the squash.

4. Bake the squash at 425F (218C) for 1 hour.

5. While the squash is cooking, heat the cooking oil over medium-low heat in a pan on the stove. Add the onion. Cook until softened (about 5 minutes).

6. Add the apple, cardemom, tarragon and cinnamon to the onion.  Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt.  Cook until carmalized / light brown over medium-low heat (about 15-20 minutes).

7. When the squash is cooked, scoop the orange part of the squash out of the shell with a spoon and place in a blender. (Remember to wear gloves or cooking mitts - the squash is hot!)

8. Add the cream and apple-onion mix to the squash in the blender.  Blend until puréed. 

9. If the mix is too thick, loosen by adding water or vegetable broth, a few tablespoons at a time, until the soup reaches the desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper.

10.  If the soup is too cool for your liking by the time the blending is complete,  pour in to a pot and heat gently over low to medium heat until the desired temperature is reached.  Stir often.  

Serve with a garnish of roast pumpkin seeds, parsley, croutons or graham cracker crumbles if desired.

This keeps well in the refigerator for 1 week.  Stir before reheating on the stove or in the microwave.

Congratulations! Your ugly squash is now gorgeous and delicious! 🎃