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Falling for squash: Seasonal veggie ready, rich with variety

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On tables stretching across Stout’s Melody Acres, alien-looking pumpkins, squash and gourds were sorted according to variety.

The long, flesh-colored tube shape of the jumbo pink banana sat on one side, and eerie blue Hubbards were stacked nearby.

Warty peanut squash, with nodules that look like the nuts of its name, were there, too.

Beneath the strange exteriors lie delicious vegetables with tastes as varied and unique as their appearances. The versatile veggie, a staple of autumn pies, breads or soups, can be roasted with butter, sauteed with herbs and oil, or whipped into a mousse.

“Our winter squash comes in a variety of densities, sweetness, moisture level, sizes and colors,” said Randy Stout, owner of Stout’s Melody Acres. “It’s a wonderfully sweet treat to add to any hearty winter meal.”

Winter squash are called so because though they grow through the summer, they’re ready to be harvested by the time the weather turns cold.

Stout carries more than 30 varieties of squash in his vegetable garden. The most famous type of winter squash is the pumpkin. But with dozens of hybrids and heirloom varieties, each one has a flavor profile that works in different ways in different dishes.

One of Stout’s favorite recipes is simply roasted squash with brown sugar. But he’s also found that it’s a superior replacement for a holiday staple — pumpkin pie.

With so many different kinds, knowing which to pick up for baking and which work better as decoration can be tricky. But this handy guide can help determine what to use this fall.

1. Marina di Chioggia

Color: Slate blue-green

Best for: Decoration and some baking

Description: The bumpy, nodule-covered rind of this pumpkin-like variety makes for a unique infusion in autumn lawn displays and centerpieces. It also can be made into gnocchi or ravioli

Keeps for: Up to six months

2. Butternut

Color: Flesh

Best for: Soup, pies or stand-alone

Description: This squash has the longest storage potential of all varieties, becoming sweeter with a nuttier finish the longer that it stores.

Keeps: Two to three months

3. Rogue Vif D’empantes

Color: Bright orange

Best for: Decorating

Description: Also called “Cinderella,” they’re named for the resemblance to the pumpkin the fairy godmother turned into a carriage.

Keeps for: Two to three months

4. Neck Pumpkin

Color: Pale yellow

Best for: Baking, pies, soups, breads

Description: With its unique long-necked form, this pumpkin is prized for the large amount of pumpkin pulp that can come from each one. The abundance of pulp makes it ideal for cooking many different dishes, all from one or two pumpkins.

Keeps for: Two to three months

5. Speckled Hound

Color: Blue-green and orange

Best for: Roasting

Description: The yellow-orange flesh contains a concentrated sweet flavor that is ideal for roasting or baking.

Keeps for: Three to four months

6. Porcelain Doll

Color: Pinkish white

Best for: Baked goods, soups or casseroles

Description: Known for its unique color and exterior, this pumpkin’s deep orange flesh has a slightly sweet taste that makes it ideal for baking into pies, risotto or even cinnamon rolls.

Keeps for: Up to six months

7. Acorn

Color: Green, gold or orange

Best for: Eating out of the shell, roasted or stuffed

Description: Features a nutty-sweet flavor with a smooth texture. This squash is best two weeks after being harvested.

Keeps for: Five to eight months

8. Whiteflat Boer

Color: Ghost white

Best for: Decorating

Description: This variety offers a unique color and a flat shape that makes it ideal for stacking. Its thick skin makes it hardy and long-lasting.

Keeps for: Four or five months

9. Peanut squash

Color: Pale orange with yellowish nodules

Best for: Decorating

Description: The warty external skin of this gourd makes it seem like it was rolled in a vat of peanuts.

Keeps for: Three or four months

10. Komo Kamo

Color: Speckled green

Best for: Boiling, frying or baking, mashed with butter and salt, or sauteed with onion and herbs

Description: A rare heirloom variety from New Zealand. The flesh has a rich nutty flavor

Keeps for: Over a year, if mature

11. Jarradale

Color: Blue-gray

Best for: Any recipe that calls for pumpkin

Description: Deeply ribbed with golden orange flesh, it features a nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness.

Keeps for: Two or three months

12.  Musqee de Provence

Color: Mottled tan and green

Best for: Decorating

Description: Originally from France, this variety has the classic, deeply ribbed exterior that people think of in a pumpkin.

Keeps for: Two to three months

13. Jumbo Pink Banana

Color: Light pink

Best for: Pies

Description: The flesh of this pumpkin is finer grained and sweeter than most, making for an ideal ingredient for baking and as filling.

Keeps for: Up to one month

14. Spaghetti

Color: Bright yellow

Best for: Baked alone

Description: Named for the strand-like appearance of its flesh after cooked. Makes for an excellent low-calorie stand-in for pasta in recipes.

Keeps for: Up to six months

15. Long Island Cheese

Color: Tanned buff

Best for: Decorating, baking

Description: A slightly sweet and deep orange-colored squash is mostly used for ornaments but can be steamed and baked into soups and casseroles.

Keeps for: Up to six months

16. Turks Turban

Color: Green, white and orange

Best for: Decorating and soup

Description: Its unusual shape make it ideal for a decoration centerpiece, but it also can be used as a makeshift bowl to fill with soup.

Keeps for: Up to six months

17. Blue Hubbard

Color: Gray-blue

Best for: Soups, pies and other baking

Description: Finely textured with yellow-orange flesh that has both a midlevel sweetness and dryness.

Keeps for: Five to six months

18. One Too Many

Color: Soft cream with orange stripes and speckles

Best for: Decorating

Description: A unique pumpkin that is flecked with what looks like red veins, giving it a creepy, Halloween-ish look.

Keeps for: Two to three months

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