As summer draws to a close, it’s time to start looking forward to comforting fall and winter produce. Squashes, with their tender flesh, mellow flavour and abundance of shapes, sizes and colours, are always a cold-weather favourite, with popular dishes including soups, curries, and stuffed or roasted squash.
When it comes to preparation, however, squashes can prove a little tricky, with their undulating shapes providing your vegetable peeler with a particularly challenging workout. But do we really need to peel squash at all? Some recipes seem to recommend it, while others don’t.
In fact, squash peel is completely edible. All of it. It’s actually very nutritious too, with plenty of fiber and a rich source of vitamin A. Of course, ‘edible’ simply means that eating it isn’t dangerous, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will be pleasant to eat. Whether you would actually want to eat squash skin really depends on the type of squash. Some have tough, stringy skins that are best removed, while others are naturally tender, or tend to soften up when cooked.
This Halloween and Thanksgiving favourite is one of the larger varieties of squash, and as anyone who has ever carved a Jack o’ Lantern will tell you, their skins are pretty tough. In fact, larger squashes tend to have tougher skins in general, simply because they have a heavier load of flesh to protect.
Pumpkin skin is generally too tough to eat, and should be removed. Luckily, there is an easy way to peel and cut pumpkins, so preparing them isn’t the big job you might think it is.
Butternut squash skin
Butternut squash has thin skin, but it is still fairly tough. It will soften with cooking, however, so whether you leave it on or not depends on what kind of dish you’re making. If you’re slow-cooking your squash to make soup, the skin should soften up nicely, and may not need to be removed. Choose a smaller butternut squash with softer skin to make the job easier.
If you’re roasting the squash, however, the skin would still be pretty tough by the time the flesh is cooked, so in this case it’s better to either remove it first, or try eating the tender flesh out of it like a bowl. Butternut squash is easier to peel than most squashes, and can be done with a regular vegetable peeler. If you’re making purée, you can leave the skin on while the flesh cooks, then scoop it out once it’s cooked.
Spaghetti squash skin
Spaghetti squash is perhaps less well known than pumpkin and butternut squash, and gets its name because its flesh forms spaghetti-like strands when cooked. It is typically served with sauce, as a gluten free, paleo-friendly alternative to its pasta namesake.
When it comes to skin, spaghetti squash has a particularly hard, flaky skin. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to peel it. Most recipes recommend baking the squash inside its skin, then cutting it in half and pulling away the ‘spaghetti’ with a fork.
Acorn squash skin
A smaller vegetable than many of its squash cousins, the acorn squash has a soft, tender skin that cooks beautifully along with the flesh. It can be cut up and roasted, or stuffed and baked whole, and the skin will be just as tasty as the rest.
Kabocha squash skin
The kabocha squash, otherwise known as the Japanese pumpkin, has somewhat tough skin, but if it is cooked for long enough, it will become soft and supple. Whether you peel this squash is really a matter of personal preference. It will never be as soft as acorn squash skin, but it is by no means tough, and many people enjoy the added texture.
Delicata squash skin
The delicata is actually named for its delicate, edible skin, so there is no need for peeling here. The rind of these cylindrical, striped vegetables is similar in texture to a summer squash like zucchini, and becomes perfectly tender when cooked. The only downside is that the flesh is less well protected, so delicata only has a shelf life of about a week.
Start winter squash season the right way with these tasty and nutritious skin-on squash recipes.
Salted pumpkin skin chips: this thrifty recipe from Cookpad is the perfect way to use up squash peels, and makes a healthy but irresistible snack.
Quinoa stuffed acorn squash: this tender, melt-in-the-mouth stuffed acorn squash from Fine Dining Lovers is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and will be enjoyed by everyone.
Roasted delicata squash: this simple side dish from Marisa Moore is seasoned with rosemary, shallots and a little salt and pepper to enhance the delicate flavour of the squash.
Roasted kabocha squash: roasted squash is so delicious that we just couldn’t resist including another recipe. This roasted kabocha squash from Nom Nom Paleo is simply seasoned, with just salt and pepper, and the skin adds just that little extra bite.
Burrito butternut squash boats: the ultimate stuffed squash recipe, courtesy of Delish, these fully-loaded burrito boats are crammed with everything you need to make the perfect burrito, cooked in enchilada sauce and smothered in melted Monterey Jack cheese.