When it comes to winter squash, you have the usual suspects: butternut and acorn squash. And oh, the mileage you can get with those two. The soups, the sides, the stir-fries, the pies…. They’re wonders! BUT, they’re also just the beginning of story. There’s a whole world of stranger squash. Let’s tour a few of them, shall we?
Jumbo Pink Banana Squash. Yep, that’s a name you can get excited about. That’s a picture of banana squash up there at the top of the post. I happen to know A LOT about this squash because when I was in junior high, I worked on a farm after school. Doing what? Picking squash, including jumbo pink banana squash.
Jumbo is an accurate word. They’re huge. When you see them out in the field, it looks like a whole bunch of pigs have decided to lay down and take a nap. Unfortunately, out in the field they also smell like a bunch of pigs have decided to lay down and take a nap. (Squeamish readers, avert your eyes. The truth is banana squash in a field smells just like vomit). The good news is that the smell dissipates in isolation, and since I doubt you will be riding in the back of a truck, as I was, with a literal ton of banana squash, you won’t experience the odor. (Don’t worry, I was paid two dollars an hour for my labors, so it was TOTALLY worth it).
Banana squash’s jumbo size is just the start of their appeal. The flesh is deep and orange and sweet, like butternut squash trumped up with pumpkin. Roast a big wedge, add some butter and salt and pepper, and that’s all it takes, you’re in squash heaven.
Next up, Hubbard Squash.
Hubbard is a homely squash. Weird and blue, they almost look like they’re shivering out there in the late fall fields. But inside, they’re all warmth and wonder. They can range from bright orange flesh to a paler marigold, but either way, they’re hearty and particularly well suited for soups.
And here is something MARVELOUS: they can last in storage for up to SIX MONTHS!!! Not the 1-2 months of acorn squash or the 2-3 months of butternut squash. Nope. Six whole months. These are the squash to get you through a long pilgrim winter. Just keep them away from your apples, since the ethylene that apples release will speed up the squash spoilage.
Our final specimen of the day: Delicata Squash.
Delicata was once hard to get a hold of. That’s because the skin is thin and therefore not as well-suited to shipping as its thicker-skinned squash cousins. But thanks to the local food movement, it’s had a huge resurgence in recent years. Now you can find it almost anywhere. Which is great because it is delicious.
I’ll be honest, you can sub a lot of the stranger squashes for butternut in a recipe and not notice all that much difference, but delicata is DIFFERENT. It’s a small squash. The flesh is yellow, not orange. You can eat the rind, and those stripes look beautiful in a dish. But that’s all surface stuff. The real difference is how it tastes. It’s a softer, milder, and sweeter than other winter squashes. Some people say it tastes like sweet potatoes. I think it’s subtler even than that. The texture is more delicate, less stringy. The whole experience is surprising. It just tastes so…refined. Less grabby than the other winter squashes, more gently seductive.
Delicata showed up in my CSA for the first time this fall. I’d actually never had it before. It would be unfair to jumbo pink banana squash to cast it aside as my favorite so quickly — all that history! How could I? — but I will say this: I’m making a delicata side dish for Thanksgiving. Infer what you will.