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As tomatoes and cucumbers dwindle, diverse varieties of winter squash displace warm-weather crops at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. “With the cooler nights and warm sunny days of the fall, squashes ripen into something special,”says Richard Pecoraro, founder and head farmer of Boulder’s MASA Seed Foundation, a regional seed bank and educational hub. We asked local farmers and one chef about their favorite varieties of the late-season heroes and how to prepare them.
Form: Wrinkly, bumpy Japanese heirloom pumpkins that range from blackish-green to buff orange
Best For: Farmer Alex Zeidner, who runs Fort Collins’ Folks Farm and Seed, urges shoppers not to be intimidated by the funky ingredient’s appearance. He often roasts futsu wedges in the oven and drizzles them with garlicky yogurt and a spicy, herb-laden oil. “It has a savory, almost french fry taste and texture,” he says.
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Form: Spherical with a slightly pointed tip on one side and dark green armor
Best For: Paul Reilly, co-owner and executive chef of Denver’s Coperta and Apple Blossom, recommends halving the nutty, dessert-appropriate squash, scooping out the seeds, cutting it into wedges, and roasting them. Once the orange-yellow surfaces are well-caramelized, dress them with brown sugar and butter, maple syrup, or honey.
Form: Pale or dark blue-green spheres with pumpkinlike ridges
Best For: This versatile ingredient adds sweet, earthy flavor to everything from stir-fries to tacos. “It’s great for soups; it’s great for tempura,” says Cody Jurbala, who owns Boulder’s Speedwell Farm & Gardens with his wife, Melissa Ogilvie. “It’s great cut superthin and roasted until it’s crispy like a chip.”
Form: Sun-colored, pill-shaped squashes with stringy interiors
Best For: Reilly uses spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta, pairing it with tomato-braised meatballs or working it into a creamy, vegetable-forward cacio e pepe that even his kids love. For just the right al dente texture, cut the squash horizontally—“like a hamburger, not a hot dog,” Reilly says—before roasting it in the oven.
Form: Oblong with thin, pale yellow skin accented by dark green vertical crevices
Best For: Pecoraro likes to slice skin-on delicata in half lengthwise and scoop out the seedy innards. Then, he bakes the beauties with a little bit of water in a casserole dish until the soft flesh is golden brown. Serve the boats crowned with rice, corn, or other grains alongside fresh greens and salsa.
Form: Beige, peanut-esque squash with bright orange-yellow flesh
Best For: Often seen in soups and ravioli, butternut is also hearty enough for hot pickling, Reilly says. Peel and cut the squash into large chunks before roasting. Meanwhile, heat red wine or sherry vinegar, olive oil, honey, chopped chiles, sliced red onion, and mint leaves in a saucepan. Put the squash in a bowl; pour the hot liquid on top and toss well; then wait 15 to 20 minutes before adding the tangy topper to prepared whole grains and proteins such as salmon, beef, or duck.