When it comes to capturing the cozy flavors of autumn in the Hudson Valley, nothing hits the spot like winter squash.
“[Winter squash] have an outstanding taste,” notes Michael Compton, owner of Spruce Run & Stony Ridge Farm, a small fruit, vegetable, and flower farm in Ulster Park. “They store well for many, many months so you can enjoy them all fall, winter, and spring until summer squash begin to appear.”
Although grouped into one overarching category, winter squash are as diverse as can be. Pumpkins and butternut squash are likely familiar to most, but there’s also lightly sweet delicata, adaptable acorn, and sunshine yellow spaghetti squash.
At Spruce Run & Stony Ridge Farm, which is sustainable and NOFA-NY Organic Certified, Compton switches his varieties annually, adding baby blue Hubbards, spaghetti, and/or cushaw to his butternut and delicata mainstays. This year, he’s added Honeynut, developed by Blue Hill chef Dan Barber and Cornell plant breeder Michael Mazourek, to the mix.
When it comes to choosing the right squash, Compton recommends starting at your local farm stand or CSA. “All of our organic winter squash are reserved solely for our fabulous CSA members,” he reveals. Whether at the market or the grocery store, the key to selecting healthy squash is to look for ones that are clean and free from blemishes and injuries, since nicks and tears can lead to decay.
Because winter squash are often high in carotenoids and fiber, they’re nutritional powerhouses during a time of year when summer’s vibrant produce disappears. Plus, they’re versatile and delicious in practically every way. Butternut squash can sweeten soups or stuffings, while delicata squash can be roasted with olive oil and eaten skin and all. As for spaghetti squash, a burst in the oven followed by a bit of fluffing with a fork results in squash strands that can replace noodles when tossed with a simple sauce.
“They are all great roasted and, of course, delectable in soups and stews,” Compton notes. “Spaghetti squash with marinara and fresh basil is one of my favorite meals.”
Ready to savor the flavors of winter squash? Look for these gorgeous gourds at farmers’ markets across the Hudson Valley, or do yourself a favor and sign up for Spruce Run & Stony Ridge Farm’s CSA program.