'Tis The Season: A Guide to Gourds

Categories: Food

Winter squash is more versatile, with more character than its lovely summertime cousin. But with all the variation in shapes and sizes of winter squash, it helps to bring a little more know-how to the market with you when you’re shopping. Some are easier to prep than others; some need more butter than others; some are darling and cute, others hulking and cavernous. Here’s what you need to know about winter squash, and how best to use them.



The North Georgia candy roaster is a banana-shaped squash traditionally incorporated into the Three Sisters planting method—in which corn, pole beans, and squash are grown together in the field—by the Cherokee Nation in Appalachia. Chef William Dissen of The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina, likes to pickle it, swapping out the traditional daikon in kimchi for the candy roaster. You can also cook the fine, orange-fleshed squash as you would a sweet potato.


Kakai pumpkins, with their bright-orange skin and green striping, are often sold as decorative pumpkins—but the good stuff is inside of it. The seeds inside are only one of the few plant-seed types that have omega-3 fatty acids—and because they are hull-less, they make a great snack when salted and toasted. And, according to Greg Woodworth of Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods, they make particularly good pumpkin-seed oil. But don’t mistake kakai seeds with the majority of what are sold as pepitas on the commercial market—which, according to Woodworth, may come from a type of melon. Typically, after the seeds have been harvested, kakai flesh is worked back into the land to feed the soil. In the future, Woodworth hopes that the flesh can be converted into animal feed or dried into a powder for use in culinary applications.

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