Major Ontario varieties are Waltham Butternut, Buttercup, Royal Acorn, Hubbard (Golden, Blue and Green), Hercules, Kindred, Delicious and Boston Marrow.
Squash is an excellent source of beta carotene and potassium, and a source of Vitamin C and folacin.
Winter squashes are likely native of the Americas, although early European explorers easily confused them with melons and gourds which originated in Asia and Europe. All three are similar in appearance and usage.
Even today squash is chiefly a New World vegetable.
Buying and storing
Look for a dry, uniformly hard surface free of soft spots and bruises. Despite the tough exterior (which preserves them during lengthy storage), winter squash needs careful handling.
To store for several weeks at home, keep cool and dry with good air circulation. Best bets for lengthy storage are butternut and hubbard varieties.
Squash can be halved, seeded and baked at 375°F (190°C) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve cooked squash with a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup and a pat of butter in the cavity. Or, scoop out the flesh and mash.
To microwave, pierce whole Ontario squash in several places. Cook on High for 8 to 12 minutes, or until tender, depending on size. Turn over partway through cooking. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Cut in half, remove seeds and serve, or scoop out the flesh and mash.
Winter squashes also lend themselves to creamed vegetable soups and, like pumpkin, the puréed version can be combined with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to make squash pie.
South American cooks will bake a beef stew inside a seeded squash which acts both as a cooking vessel and an ingredient of the dish.