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Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is a variety of the Cucurbita pepo cultivar of winter squash. This edible gourd has distinctive longitudinal ridges on the outside. Similar to other squashes, it has a yellow-orange flesh. An acorn squash vine is characterized by its yellow trumpet flowers common with other squashes. 

Classification Information:
Kingdom: Plantae  
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Cucurbita
Species: C. pepo
Binomial name: Cucurbita pepo
Cultivar group: C. pepo var. turbinata

Acorn Squash Trivia

  • Acorn squash is known in other places as pepper squash or Des Moines squash.
  • Acorn squash is a winter squash, but other squashes in the species Cucurbita pepo to which acorn squash belong to are actually summer squashes, like zucchini and crookneck squash.
  • It got its name “acorn squash” because it resembles the shape of an acorn.
  • Always cut the acorn squash from the vine, do not pull it, to avoid dislodging the stem from the acorn squash. When this happens, the acorn squash’s shelf life is shortened and it becomes susceptible to bruising and quick spoilage.
  • Acorn squash is a botanical fruit but it is commonly treated and used as a culinary vegetable.
  • Food historians believe that the three most important food staples among indigenous tribes are corn, beans, and squash.

Acorn Squash Buying Guide

Acorn squash has a dark green exterior, but don’t be surprised if you find a yellow or golden or even white acorn squash in the market – these are some of the newer varieties of acorn squash. Acorn squashes are considered variegated. Acorn squashes are not really very big compared to other squashes. Normally, you can find an acorn in the grocery or supermarket that weighs between one to two pounds with a length ranging from four to seven inches.

You’ll know when you are holding a ripe acorn squash when it is heavy and there are no soft spots anywhere. An acorn squash that has shiny skin is not ideal because this was picked before full maturity. Either that or the producer has applied wax to make the acorn squash look appealing.

Acorn squash is normally available all year long. In North America, fall and winter are considered peak seasons for acorn squash harvest.

Acorn Squash Production & Farming in Texas

One of the positive qualities of acorn squash is it is easy to grow. When planting acorn squash, make sure the danger of frost is past. Make sure the soil is warm. Plant the seed at least one inch deep. To grow acorn squash, make sure to plant it in a well-draining, sandy, fertile soil with lots of organic matter. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5. It is important that the acorn squash gets full sun. Make sure your acorn squash gets enough fertilizer (like a 10-10-10) because this plant is a heavy feeder. 

When planting acorn squash, make sure you know whether what you are planting is a low, trailing plant, a climbing vine, or a bush type like the Table Gold which is also known as Golden Acorn or Jersey Golden Acorn. This way, you are prepared with the needs of your acorn plant, like a trellis or support if you are growing a climbing variety or enough space for trailing varieties. 

Harvest time is between 80 to 90 days after germination. This is followed by a 10-day curing stage that takes place in a warm, dry, sheltered area. Farmers believe that curing acorn squash helps prolong the shelf life of the acorn squash so that it does not spoil easily. To encourage acorn squash to continue producing, make sure to always harvest mature acorn squashes. A good indicator is when the skin is hard and the bottom is the color of cream or orange. 

Acorn squash can grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 11. This means it can grow anywhere in Texas. The hardiness zone spectrum covering Texas ranges from 6 to 9B. Acorn squash thrives well in Texas, along with other squashes like butternut, buttercup, delicata, spaghetti, table queen, Hubbard, and calabaza.

Pesticides:

Squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and vine borers are the common enemies of acorn squash. 

  • Squash bugs – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of squash bugs.
  • Cucumber beetle – Use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides. Other options include using pyrethrin or spinosad spray.
  • Vine borers – Use man-made pesticide carbaryl, broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin, or the pyrethroid insecticide bifenthrin to rid your acorn squash of vine borers.

Geography: 

Acorn squash is indigenous to North and Central America. Native Americans were the first to introduce acorn squash to Europeans. Today, China, India, Russia, Mexico, and Costa Rica are major producers of acorn squash, as well as the US, specifically the states of Florida and California.

Packaging:

Common to fruits and vegetables of the same size or larger, acorn squash is usually sold without any type of packaging, primarily because its thick skin and rind already provide it with a layer of protection, keeping the flesh inside safe from any potential contamination while out on display. In some stores or groceries, you will see acorn squash individually wrapped in plastic wrap.

Enjoying Acorn Squashes

Acorn squash is generally sweet in flavor. If you are open to sampling anything edible, know that the flowers of the acorn squash are edible too! Also, you can eat the seeds (roasted, not raw) and the skin but only if you cook it properly so that it is soft and easy to chew and swallow.

Storage:

Acorn squashes do not store very well. They are considered as one of the most perishable winter squashes. If you have acorn squash at home, make sure to cook it as soon as possible and do not expect it to keep for longer than a month. If your acorn squash is stemless, you can store it in the refrigerator but it will only keep for a few days. Make sure to cook it as soon as possible before it becomes unsuitable for consumption.

Expect it to last for one month at the most, but only if it is stored somewhere dark and cool with a 50 to 55 degrees F. temperature. In the refrigerator, acorn squash will last for two weeks. If you are storing cut acorn squash, store it in a container with a lid or wrap it in plastic wrap before refrigerating. It should not stay there for longer than 4 days.

Cooking: 

There are several ways to cook acorn squash. A popular acorn squash dish is acorn squash soup. In some countries, they bake acorn squash. You can also cut it into smaller pieces and saute it. Steaming acorn squash is also one way to prepare this vegetable. It is also common to see acorn squash stuffed with rice, meat, and other vegetables. Acorn squash can also be used in making sweet dishes. It is great with maple syrup either as filling, glaze, or sauce. For acorn squash seeds, it is common to toast them so that they can be eaten as a snack.

If you are wondering what recipe to try for your acorn squash, consider any of the following: Acorn Squash Rigatoni Alfredo, Creamy Roasted Acorn Squash Pasta, Roasted Acorn Squash Pasta with Kale, Roasted Acorn Squash Bolognese, or the Mediterranean Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Nutritional Benefits:

Eating acorn squash benefits the body because we get dietary fiber and potassium from acorn squash. It also has vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium, and manganese. Acorn squash helps protect against chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 83.3 4%
  • Carbs: 21.5g 7%
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Fiber: 6.4g 25%
  • Protein: 1.6g 3%
  • Fat: 0.2g 0%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g 0%

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