Fall has finally arrived and winter squash are stocked on the shelves — acorn, spaghetti, and of course, butternut.
Butternut squash a must-have fall vegetable that dates back nearly 10,000 years ago. It’s true. Archaeological evidence suggests that squash was first cultivated in what is now known as the Isthmus of Panama. Squash was one of the three main crops (known as the “Three Sisters” — maize, beans, and squash) planted by Native Americans. If you’re looking for authentic North American fall foods for your Thanksgiving feast, squash certainly qualifies.
(Read more at: How Americans Became so Obsess with Pumpkins)
The most noticeable difference between winter squash and summer squash, like zucchini and yellow squash, is the exterior skin. Summer squash have thin, flavorful skin you leave on and eat, while winter squash have a tough, inedible outer shell.
It’s because of this shell, however, that winter squash can be stored for long periods of time and eaten all winter long. Butternut squash are delicious roasted and served in chilis, soups, stews or side dishes. They’re also a great addition to salads and pastas.
Basically, with butternut squash, it’s not hard to find a delicious recipe for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.
It’s also because of this shell that butternut squash can be hard or intimidating to pick out.
So how do you pick the perfect butternut squash?
How to pick the best butternut squash
A ripe butternut squash will taste sweet and creamy when cooked. An unripe squash will be tasteless. So it’s worth learning how to pick out a good one!
Examine its color
A butternut squash should be a dark shade of beige. The entire vegetable should have a matte look to it. If it’s still shines, it’s not ripe yet. Also, any visible green patches or streaks mean it’s not quite ripe yet either. There will, however, be a pale spot — this is okay. It’s just the side where the squash was laying on the ground in the field.
Feel its weight
A ripe butternut squash will be heavy for its size. Pick up a few for comparison. A light squash means it hasn’t ripened yet.
Do the knock test
If you’ve ever seen people tapping on a squash, it’s for the tried-and-true knock test — and it actually works pretty well. Give your butternut squash a few knocks, just like you would a door. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready to be eaten.
Check the stem
When your stem is in tact, your butternut squash will keep longer. Missing stems may signal that the squash is past its prime. Also, check the stem color. The best butternuts will have a darn brown stem.
Stay away from butternut squash with serious cuts or soft spots, which could be the first signs of rot or mold. If it’s just a light surface scratch or blemish to the outer shell, the squash is probably okay.
If you’re still not sure you’re picking out a butternut squash that will be ready for the dinner table tonight, buy your fall produce from a local roadside stand or farmers market. They’d love to share their knowledge with you.
ALSO SEE: What’s in season in October.