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In Season

Thank goodness for winter squash:
Just when the runs of most summer vegetables are petering out, along comes the winter squash harvest, giving us new reasons to eat our veggies.

Dozens of varieties of squash come into season from now through early winter, and they all have a few things in common.

• They keep a long time: Kept in a cool, dry place – ideally around 50 degrees, with humidity between 50 and 70 percent – most squash varieties will stay fresh for up to two months. (It’s best to leave stems on, if possible.)

• Unlike summer varieties like zucchini, these have a hard rind that can’t be eaten, and they must be cooked before serving.

• They have a distinctive, hearty flavor that lends itself especially well in soups, stews, purees and casseroles that are naturals in cooler weather.

• Winter squash are relatively high in fiber (3-6 grams per one-cup serving) and deliver good amounts of vitamins A, C and the various Bs. Though naturally low-fat, varieties like butternut and acorn provide omega-3 fatty acids, linked to heart health.

Compact and dark green, these have a tough rind that can be difficult to cut. But they couldn’t be easier to cook: Simply slice in half and bake. For extra richness, fill each half with a little butter, brown sugar or real maple syrup.

The pale-beige, bell-shaped butternut squash has a sweet, nutty flavor that’s especially good in soups, because it purees beautifully, without being stringy. Its rind is thin and can be removed with a sturdy vegetable peeler.

Spaghetti Squash
This long, oval squash gets its name from its unusual flesh: After cooking, the yellow interior separates into long, thin ribbons that look like noodles. As for taste – no, it won’t pass for pasta. But because it’s milder and not as sweet as other varieties, steamed spaghetti squash pairs nicely with tomato-and-mushroom pasta sauce for a satisfying vegetarian entrée.

Sugar pumpkins
Sometimes called pie pumpkins, these are the much smaller cousin of the giant jack-o-lantern pumpkins traditional at Halloween. (And yes, all pumpkins are a variety of squash.) You can eat either kind, but the diminutive, round sugar pumpkins provide more flesh relative to their size, and they have a sweeter, richer taste and smoother texture than the larger variety. Use them in pies, soups, purees and exotic stews.

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