September to January is peak season for winter squash—all of which share hard shells, yellow-to-orange flesh and great nutritional profiles. “The large butternut is the standard for foodservice, but chefs are now embracing the smaller varieties for their flavor and shape,” says Robert Schueller of Melissa’s Produce. “Their flesh can be cooked and the scooped-out shell used as a decorative container.”
Blue Hubbard: At 5 to 15 pounds, this bumpy, blue-skinned variety is the largest in the family; also can have green or orange skin.
Buttercup: This medium-sized squash sports a “turban” on top. The sweet flesh has a sweet-potato-like flavor.
Carnival: A cross between acorn and sweet dumpling; flesh is deep yellow and sweet.
Delicata: This long, fluted variety is best steamed; tastes like a cross between sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
Gold Nugget: Shaped like a small pumpkin; bake and use like the more common acorn squash.
Pam Pumpkin: Also goes by the names sugar, pie, sugar pie, baby and mini pumpkin; puree cooked flesh and place back in the shell.
Red Kuri: A 3- to 8-pound squash with bright red-orange rind; orange flesh has a sweet, nutty flavor.
Sweet Dumpling: Similar in size to a grapefruit with very sweet, yellow-orange flesh.