Winter squash promises months of tasty dishes

WINCHESTER—Decorative pumpkins may take center stage at fall farmers’ markets, but there are plenty of nutrient-packed winter squash varieties for seasonal menus.

John Marker of Marker-Miller Orchards grows acorn, butternut, dumpling, kabocha, and spaghetti squash and sugar pumpkins to sell at his farm market near Winchester. 

“We sell winter squash from September through December,” said Marker, who serves on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Small Fruit & Vegetable Advisory Committee. “Spaghetti squash is one of our most popular and is a heathy alternative to pasta.”

Winter squashes are also popular with Marker and his customers because they are easy to prepare. It’s not even necessary to peel them.

“The way I like winter squash is baked in the oven. Just cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and top with brown sugar and cinnamon before baking. They make great side dishes,” he said.

Harvested in the fall, the hardy vegetables will keep through the winter from which they get their name.

“Winter squashes are packed, nutritionally,” said Kate Ruby, coordinator of the Capital Area Farmers Market Association in the Richmond area. “They are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber. Because of these qualities, before the days of refrigeration and a global food industry, winter squashes could supply a family’s nutritional needs throughout long cold winters.”

A wide variety of winter squash can be found at farmers’ markets in the Richmond area, she said, and can be used in a variety of ways.

“It’s fun to experiment with different winter squashes,” Ruby said. The varying degrees of sweetness and different textures and flavors give cooks a wide range of options. “They can be part of a soup, a side dish or an entree. For those who try to eat seasonally, the variety of squashes helps keep the winter food options diverse.”

Media: Contact Marker at 540-662-1980 or Ruby at 

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