Harlequin squash
Food + Drink

How to Use Six Unusual Winter Squash Varieties

Bill Holdsworth, plant breeder at Rupp Seeds in Wauseon, shares how to use six of the more unusual winter squash varieties. 

Butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash have a prominent place on restaurant menus and in home-cooked meals for a reason — their time-tested versatility makes them indispensible. For the adventurous there are plenty of varieties of winter squash to play with in the kitchen. We talked to Bill Holdsworth, plant breeder at Rupp Seeds in Wauseon about some unusual and useful ones to keep an eye out for.

Honeynut: It may look like a butternut, but this pint-sized hybrid has a lot to offer. “They call it a serving-sized butternut, and it has a really deep flavor,” says Holdsworth. “It has its origin in a cross between a butternut and a buttercup squash. It tastes sweeter than other butternuts, because it pulled in some of the flavor and texture qualities from the buttercup-type squash.”

Sun Spot: “My favorite are the buttercup or kabocha type [squash],” says Holdsworth. “If I was to pick something out of that species to eat, it would be a kabocha type that has typically really high starch content and can be very sweet.” Practically glowing orange, sun spot is a dense, nutty kabocha-type squash that packs a sweet punch. “It’s really good eating,” he says. “I like to use it in desserts; any recipe that calls for pumpkin, you can use that. I think it actually tastes better than any canned pumpkin, or any pie pumpkin that people might find in a farmer’s market.”

Celebration, Sweet Lightning, Harlequin: Each looks like the familiar acorn squash, but instead of a rich dark green, these hybrid varieties feature bold stripes of yellow, white or orange. “There are some squash that are crosses between delicata and acorn that are gaining in popularity and can be used as an ornamental or a really good eating squash,” Holdsworth explains. “Breeders have combined the really good flavor in a delicata and the really interesting striping of a delicata with some of the better growth habits of an acorn squash, and the shape — people really like the shape of an acorn, too.” Between their superior flavor and interesting look, customers have a choice: dinner plate or front porch.

Long Island Cheese: “That’s related to butternut,” says Holdsworth, although it may be hard to believe, looking at the wide, squat, light peach-colored variety. Like a butternut, it’s a member of the species cucurbita moschata, which have a smooth texture and balanced sweetness. “Actually, the Long Island Cheese squash is very closely related to the Dickinson field pumpkin, which is the typical pumpkin that’s used for Libby’s pumpkin pie filling,” adds Holdworth.  

For more information about Rupp Seeds, visit ruppsseeds.com.