By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Season of squash
You can do more than decorate with falls colorful squash varieties
Hubbard squash - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

Butternut, buttercup and sweet dumpling sound like names you might call your sweetie, but they also are popular varieties of winter squash.

Winter squash, which also includes the Kabocha, Hubbard, spaghetti and acorn, are filling the bins in the local produce section and are in season for fall eating.

"Most people get winter squash and pumpkins confused," said David White, owner of It Began with a Seed Farm in Lula. "’Cause a lot of winter squash looks like pumpkins. The difference is most pumpkins, like what you find at your local nursery or Wal-Mart, they don’t have the best flavor in the world. You can use them for eating, but they are thin walled so they can be hollowed out ... whereas winter squash typically have a thicker wall and even pie pumpkins have a thicker wall."

Joe Gatins, owner of La Gracia, a small organic farm in Rabun County, loves the flavor of any winter squash.

"As far as I’m concerned, winter squash — whether it’s acorn, butternut squash —taste about the same," he said. "It really depends on how you fix them. Some people like to put cinnamon and sugar on them and that will give you a particular taste. I prefer butter, salt and pepper with — this is the secret ingredient — a teeny bit of nutmeg.

"The easiest way to do these is cut them in half and bake them at 300 to 350 for about an hour to an hour and a half until they are really nice and soft and you just peel the meat off."

This year Gatins grew a variety of winter squash called the Georgia Candy Roaster and had good luck growing the squash.

"It comes out to be about 10 pounds for each fruit and it’s a long, huge banana-shaped type of squash," he said. "It’s orange and it looks like a butternut on the outside and orange on the inside."

Gatins, is also a founding member of the Simply Homegrown Market in Clayton, where small farmers come together to sell organic fruits and vegetables. He also is a member of Georgia Organics, a member-supported nonprofit organization that is working to combine healthy, sustainable and locally-grown food for Georgians.

The group, based in Atlanta, provided a recipe from the Virginia Willis Culinary Productions that incorporates Georgia pecans, sorghum syrup and squash.

You begin by baking acorn squash at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. While the squash is cooking, combine pecans, syrup and thyme. After baking, turn the squash upright on the baking sheet and fill each squash with the pecan mixture, reserving about three tablespoons.

Then, divide goat cheese between the halves and sprinkle with reserved pecans and season with salt and pepper. Bake an additional 10 minutes more or until the goat cheese is warm and melted. Drizzle with additional syrup if desired and serve immediately.

There are many recipes available when squash is concerned, but White said he has a foolproof way to cook the vegetable.

"Winter squash is probably best sliced, oiled and put on a sheet pan and baked in the oven," he said. "You can add flavor to them with brown sugar, cinnamon, regular sugar, you can spice them with any kind of spices ... If you truly want to taste the flavor they are best roasted without anything on them and you can always add spices."

White also adds that squash is a great candidate for freezing.

"The part you aren’t going to use ... put in a food processor; go ahead and chop it down and put it in freezer storage containers. Put it in the freezer and you can put it out make pumpkin pie out of winter squash, they carry similar flavors.

"We pull them out and eat them at Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Squash, besides being a beautiful addition to any plate, also is a healthy vegetable.

One cup of squash adds fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, folate and beta carotene to your diet, among other benefits, according to

Store squash in a cool, dry place, that is 50 to 59 degrees and 50 percent to 70 percent humidity, and they can be stored up to six months, according to

"There is really not much to it, you just need to make sure they stay cool and have some air," said Pat Oliver, owner of Goldbrook Pumpkin Farm in Lula.