Squash seeds were buried with the dead to nourish their journey in the afterlife, and also were believed to increase fertility. The earliest squash had sparse flesh and was bitter and unpalatable, and cultivated only for its seeds. As cultivation spread, better-tasting varieties developed.
Characterized by hard shells, hollow inner, seed-filled cavities and sweet flesh, the many varieties of winter squash include acorn, banana, turban, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti and kabocha. Winter squash are harvested at a more mature age than their summer cousins. The hard shell lends longer storage capacity, and the vibrant yellow and orange flesh is richer in vitamins.
Winter squash are an important source antioxidants that includes alpha and beta carotenes; just one cup provides more than double the daily requirement of vitamin A, important for eye health.
The most flavorful squash will have a firm, smooth rind that allows most varieties to be stored for one week up to six months, if kept out of direct light and extreme temperatures. Once cut, store squash covered, in the refrigerator, for one to two days. Cooked winter squash, whether steamed or baked, needs little more than a dash of seasoning to enhance flavor. Try it pureed in soups, stuffed with sweet and savory ingredients.
Source: Chicagotribune.com, 12-15-11