What Is Squash?

Delicata squash cut in half and whole

Wally Eberhart / Getty Images

Of all fruits and vegetables used today in cooking, 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 we have this love for squash? Besides 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. Here we're going to dive into why we find squash to be unique and why we'd like to ‘squash’ any rumors that may be preventing it from receiving its well-deserved attention.

Defining a Squash

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.

Squash Varieties

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

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 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.