5 simple tips for preparing pumpkins and squash

'Tis the season of pumpkins and squashes. Here's five simple tips to help you prepare and cook them, plus a guide to the different types. 

1. The easiest way to cut open a pumpkin or squash

Place your squash on a chopping board (for larger ones you can put them on top of a cloth to stop them from moving around). With a large sharp knife cut your squash in half down the middle. If the skin is particularly tough, you can hold your knife on top of the squash; cover both the knife and the squash with a tea towel, then use something heavy to gently hit the knife and split the squash open. 

Cut your squash into segments, halves or quarters, and scoop out the seeds with a larger dessert spoon. The squash is now ready to be prepared. 

butternut squash being cut in half

2. No need to peel

Depending on what type of squash you are using you might not need to peel it, with thinner skinned squash such as butternut squash you can eat the skin. For thicker skinned squash it is often easier to cut the squash into large wedges, roast, and then peel the skin off after it’s cooked when it’s softer and easier.

squash with peel on in bowl

3. Use a sharp knife 

If you do decide to peel it, a sharp vegetable peeler or a sharp knife is a must. Make sure to support the squash on its side with your hand or sit it flat on the board whilst peeling.

cutting squash

4. Don't throw away the seeds 

Don’t throw away squash or pumpkin seeds. Wash them, bake them on an oiled baking tray in a medium oven for 10 minutes until lightly toasted, then sprinkle on salads, soups or cereal, or enjoy as a snack. 

  • Use pumpkin seeds instead of, or as well as, sunflower seeds in our apricot muesli recipe

roasted pumpkin seeds

5.Spaghetti squash 

For spaghetti squash follow the tips above but half the squash and roast in the over face down. Once it is tender, wait for it to cool down, and gently scrape out the squash flesh with a fork – it’s just like spaghetti! Why not try it mixed half and half with wholemeal spaghetti with your favourite sauce.

Try our recipe for spaghetti bolognese or for spaghetti with sardines and cherry tomatoes

spaghetti squash with fork

What type of squash to use?

There are many different types of squash. Butternut squash is one of the sweetest and is widely available all year round, but there are many other varieties too.

The large orange pumpkins you get around Halloween don't usually to have a lot of flavour, but are fine mixed with herbs and spices in curries, soups or other spicy dishes like our butternut squash laksa.

Acorn squash are small, dark green squashes with orange-yellow flesh and a good, sweet flavour. 

Crown prince and Hubbard squashes are large pumpkins with grey-blue skins and orange flesh. They have a good flavour and will store in a cool place for weeks.

Except for spaghetti squash, most other squashes can be substituted for each other in recipes. If you want to try some more unusual types of squash and have a garden, why not buy some seeds and grow your own?

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