Most varieties of squash are placed into two categories: summer and winter squash. Winter squash varieties have hard skins and firmer, denser flesh than summer squash varieties. They are harvested later in the growing season and are most plentiful in food stores during the fall and winter months. Common varieties of winter squash include acorn, butternut, golden nugget, and hubbard. Winter squash will keep longer than summer squash and need only be stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigeration is not required unless the squash has been cut open. The hard skins of winter squash help preserve the flesh for several weeks after harvesting. To cut into the hard shell, use a fork to pierce the outer skin in several areas. Then heat the squash in a microwave for 3 minutes on high. A microwave is best, because it adds moisture to soften the skin. Using an oven will dry out the shell unless the squash is placed in a pan of water which will add moisture. After removing the seeds from the center, the squash can be steamed or baked and enhanced in flavor if lightly sweetened with brown sugar or honey mixed into the meat of the squash.
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