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Butternut, spaghetti, pumpkin, zucchini, yellow.

With so many varieties of squash to choose from, selecting one and preparing it can be a little intimidating.

These gourmet gourds are not only delicious, but they’re also chock-full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — making squash a great choice for a healthy diet. But which squash should you choose, and what do you do with it? It’s easier than you think.

A dinner prepared with squash as the main ingredient.

Summer vs. winter squash 

The two main categories for this flavorful fruit (yes, it’s actually considered a fruit!) are summer and winter squash. 

Summer squash can grow on a bush or a vine. They have softer skin, a mild flavor and taste best when they’re picked within 60 to 70 days of planting. Zucchini and yellow squash are two well-known varieties.

Winter squash grow on a vine, have tough skins and a stronger flavor. They take longer to mature and can be picked then stored until the winter months. Examples of these include acorn, butternut, Hubbard — and pumpkins, surprisingly.

A prepared serving of orange honeyed acorn squash.
Get this orange honeyed acorn squash recipe below.
A prepared serving of spaghetti squash boat.

Some squash is so versatile, you can substitute it for pasta.

These spaghetti squash boats are a fun and tasty way to convince kids to give squash a try. Find the recipe here.

Now you’re cookin’!

It’s hard to go wrong when you prepare squash. Serve them raw, roasted, fried, steamed or pureed. Ideas for cooking some popular types.

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash.
True to its name, this is a great alternative to high-calorie pasta. Cut in half, remove the seeds, then microwave or roast in the oven. Scrape out the long, noodle-like strands and ladle on your favorite sauce.

Butternut squash

Butternut squash.
This squash works well with sweet or savory recipes and has a mild, buttery flavor. The easiest way to cook it is to roast it in the oven. Peel it with a vegetable peeler and cut into cubes before roasting.

Yellow squash

Yellow squash.
Go simple by adding a few seasonings and roasting in the oven, or add this versatile ingredient to salads, pasta or chili.

Sugar pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin.
A sweeter cousin to the larger “Halloween” or field pumpkins, sugar pumpkins are smaller and rounder. They’re equally as good in a homemade pumpkin pie or pureed for soup.


The mild flavor makes it easy to add to lots of recipes, or grill thick slices seasoned with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese for a tasty side dish.

With so many ways to incorporate it — whether it stars as a main course or shines as a side dish — squash is an easy, smart choice for a flavorful, nutrient-packed meal.

Orange honeyed acorn squash


  • Three small acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg (optional) 


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Cut squash in half, remove seeds and place the halves cut side up in a shallow baking pan.
  3. Combine the orange juice and honey, mixing well. Spoon some of the orange juice/honey mixture into each squash cavity.
  4. Add a tablespoon of margarine or butter to each squash half. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired.
  5. Cover the pan with aluminum foil to keep the steam in, which will speed cooking.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for 30 minutes more or until squash is tender.

Serves 6.

Adapted from

This story originally appeared in PA Health, our quarterly full-color magazine filled with wellness tips, inspiring stories and more.

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