Now that pumpkins are no longer in demand as jack o’lanterns, it’s time to take a look at winter squash as ingredients for late fall and winter meals. Harvested in the fall, winter squash are given this name because their thick skin keeps through the winter. Winter squash are typically denser, sweeter and firmer in texture than their summer counterparts such as zucchini. These winter varieties are great in everything from soups and casseroles to lasagna and even desserts. They also contain significant nutritional benefits.

Squash varieties differ in taste and texture. Some popular winter squash varieties include: butternut (bell-shaped with a sweet taste), buttercup (sweet squash great for soups), sugar or pie pumpkin, sweet dumpling squash (edible skin and tastes like sweet potato), spaghetti squash (stringy flesh resembles noodles), delicata (thin, edible skin with earthy flavor), and acorn squash (acorn shape with mild flavor).

When selecting winter squash, look for fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. They should also feel heavy for their size. Winter squash should be stored in a cool, dry place. If kept in a root cellar below 50 degrees, squash can last up to six months. However, squash kept in a pantry or on your counter should be eaten within two to three months.

Roasted spaghetti squash with Parmesan and mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus additional for drizzling on squash)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 16 ounces sliced cremini baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.

Halve the spaghetti squash and remove the seeds. Lightly drizzle and rub the insides and outsides of the squash with olive oil, sprinkle the insides of each half with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, then place cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the squash until fork tender, about 25 minutes. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, until cool enough to handle, then shred in insides into strands with a fork. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high. Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper, then sauté until fragrant, about 1 additional minute. Add the chopped spinach by handfuls, allowing it to wilt, then adding more as it will fit into your skillet. Cook just until all of the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.

Add the shredded squash to the skillet, then cook just until heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the Parmesan and parsley. Serve warm, topped with additional parsley and Parmesan as desired.

The Athens Farmers Market Café is a collaboration between the Athens Farmers Market, OU COMCorps, a local Americorps program, and Athens County Children Services. Athens Farmers Market hours are Wednesdays (April-December) and Saturdays (year round), 9 a.m. to noon at The Market on State parking lot, 1000 E. State St., Athens. To help increase fresh food consumption, the Athens Farmers Market vendors proudly participate in the following social service programs: the USDA Food Assistance Program, SNAP/EBT (food stamps), WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Participants can stop by the table at the southeast corner of the market to get SNAP tokens to spend at the market.

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