What is Squash?

Delicata squash
Wally Eberhart / Getty Images

Question: What is Squash?

What is squash?

Answer: Of all fruits and vegetables used today in cooking, I would have to say one of the most underrated of them all is the squash. Maybe it’s the name, or maybe it’s the shape, but for whatever reason, squash doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Why do I have this love for squash? Besides it having a unique flavor, squash is actually really versatile and very easy to cook with.

It can be used all year round and adds a special something to any meal. Read on to discover why I find squash unique, and why I’d like to ‘squash’ any rumors that may be preventing it from receiving its well-deserved attention.

First of all, what exactly is a squash? The answer most people would give would probably be a vegetable. After all, it’s found next to other vegetables in the produce section of your local grocery store. In actuality, squash is a fruit. Because it contains seeds, squash is classified as a fruit though, like the tomato, it is used as a vegetable when cooking. There are several varieties of squash, commonly placed into groups such as winter squash and summer squash. The use of seasons does not indicate when a particular type of squash is harvested, rather how long the fruit will keep. Summer squash is a variety that is less mature and smaller, and should be eaten sooner, while winter squash is more mature and can be kept and eaten at a later date.

Though most squash varieties can be found year-round, some have their peak months when they are considered the freshest. Familiar types of summer squash are zucchini and yellow squash, common winter types include spaghetti squash, acorn squash and pumpkins.

Different varieties of squash can be purchased fresh from your local grocery store or produce stand.

When choosing summer squash, look for smaller fruits, having bright skin and no damages or discoloration. The fruit should be slightly tender when pressed. Winter squash should have very firm skin and will be hard to the touch. Slight discolorations and flaws are normal.

Storing squash is based on its variety. Because its skin is thinner, summer squash will not keep as long as winter squash. To properly store summer squash, do not wash and place in a plastic bag. Keep in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper drawer. Summer squash will keep for up to two weeks this way. Winter squash, on the other hand, can be stored in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry for up to three months. If either variety of squash is bought already chopped, store in the refrigerator and use within a week.