Acorn squash is an all-American veggie if ever there was one. A prime example of a healthful food that pleases the palate, the sweet, slightly nutty flesh is a very good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. It also provides thiamin, potassium, manganese, vitamin A, Vitamin B6, folate and magnesium.
While considered a winter squash (it certainly looks and tastes like one), the acorn is a member of the same species as summer squashes, like those long zucchinis and yellow crooknecks. The most popular acorns are the blackish/dark green variety, often speckled with orange patches; these are the green acorn squash, also known as Des Moines squash, pepper squash and Table Queen. There are also yellow/gold acorn, white acorn, and multi-colored (orange, green and white striped) squash.
Here are the names of some of the other varieties you might come across at Farmers’ Market or in our produce section: Seneca Autumn Queen, Table Ace, Early Acorn, Golden Acorn, Tay Belle, Royal Acorn, Cream of the Crop, Ebony and Table King.
Florida and California are the main U.S. producers of acorn squash (Mexico and Costa Rica are also big growers), but it thrives in most areas of the United States, so in season you can likely find them at Farmer’s market or the Co-op.
There's no end to the ways to enjoy an acorn squash—baked, grilled, microwaved or steamed; stuffed with nuts, dried fruits, grains, breads or other cooked veggies; drizzled with a natural sweetener; or just topped with a pat of butter. For sweeteners, consider maple syrup, honey, agave syrup or orange juice. Walnuts, chestnuts, and pecans are good choices for nuts, and for fruits, pair the squash with raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, figs, or apricot preserves. Apples and acorn squash also go well together.
Roasted acorn squash is a delightful addition to salads, too. Toss chunks of squash into stir-fries and casseroles, and fold the puréed flesh into quick breads, muffins, and other baked goods. Squash soups and stews, whether creamy smooth or chunky and hearty, are welcome additions to the menu come fall and winter. In desserts, think custards, pies, cookies, and bars. Freshly cooked acorn squash flesh can be used in place of canned pumpkin in recipes.
From the spice rack, you might choose cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, or rosemary to season your squash. Spice blends are also good options. Pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice would work well in a dessert featuring acorn squash.
When shopping for an acorn squash, choose one that's dull and heavy for its size, and free of soft spots and cracks. When available, pick one that has a stem (that nifty stem helps keeps bacteria out).
Your acorn squash will keep for three to six months if you store it in a cool, dry area away from extreme temps and sunlight. You might want to bring home an armful for all the delectable dishes made with scrumptious acorn squash.
Need Thanksgiving side dish inspiration, check out this recipe for Cinnamon Apple Stuffed Squash.