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Beyond Butternut: 3 Heirloom Winter Squash Varieties

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If you're anything like me, the beginning of every season is a flurry of activity in the kitchen. Berries in May, tomatoes in June, apples in October. But halfway into the season, fruits and vegetables start to lose their glimmer, going from "Yum!" to "Ho-hum." But there's no reason to despair, especially not now, when we still have quite a ways to go before spring and quite a few more pumpkins to eat. Spruce up your winter menus, with three heirloom winter squashes to break you out of your doldrums and introduce some new flavors!

Chicago Warted Squash

Don't be fooled by its appearance -- this black, warty squash may look like something out of a witch's pantry in a fairy tale, but you'll be pleasantly surprised by its delectable flavor. It has a fine-grained, sweet flesh that is perfect for processing, puréeing and canning. Its silky-smooth texture is perfect in our pumpkin butter recipe or in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe. If you can't find it at your local farmer's market, Chicago warted squash seeds can be purchased online, for use in your home garden.

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From the Organic Authority Files

Kikuza Squash

This Japanese variety is pale in color, even when ripe, though truly ripe specimens should have a tan finish. The flesh is sweet and dry, with a nutty flavor that makes it absolutely perfect as a substitute for pumpkin in our pumpkin pesto bruschetta recipe or in this pumpkin, roasted hazelnut and feta salad recipe. Kikuza are only starting to become available in the States, mostly on the East coast, but Kikuza seeds can be purchased online as well.

Amish Pie Squash

As one might be able to guess from the name, Amish Pie Squash is a variety long beloved by the Amish, though it only became available to "English" (Amish outsiders) about 20 years ago. These heart-shaped squash have light orange flesh that is firm and moist, perfect -- as you might guess -- for pie-making. Can this squash at its peak to use in pies all winter long. Bring it back to its roots, in this recipe for Amish pumpkin pie.

Try these squashes -- and others -- in some of our delicious squash recipes, like pumpkin bisque, candied butternut squash or butternut squash soup with sage. Find even more squash recipes in our roundup of 5 pumpkin recipes, and get cooking... winter's not over yet!

Image: tim sackton

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