Pick the perfect squash–it should just ripe, and just right for how you plant to cook it.

Farmers Market Friday: Winter Squash Guide
Some of Full Belly's winter squashes at the Palo Alto, California farmers' market. Photo by Elaine Johnson
Heading to the farmers’ market this weekend? Join me for an occasional series as I ask farmers about the season’s best produce and share Sunset’s favorite ways to cook it.
Paul Muller, co-owner of Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley north of Sacramento, has been rising at 3 a.m. every Saturday for over 30 years to bring organic produce to the Palo Alto downtown farmers’ market on the San Francisco Peninsula. This week he and his team will set out upwards of a dozen kinds of winter squash, a rainbow of orange, green, yellow, and even blue. No matter which variety you’re buying, he has two great tips for knowing you’re choosing a good one.
A ripe acorn squash, showing an orange “ground spot.” Photo by Elaine Johnson
“I pick squash when the stem dries or the ‘ground spot’ turns orange,” he says, showing me a firm, dry stem on a butternut squash and the orange blotch on an acorn squash where it rested on the ground. Both a dry stem and a ground spot indicate the squash was picked fully ripe and will be flavorful and sweet. Out of the many varieties he grows, does he have a few favorites?
Buttercup squash and Sugar Pie pumpkin. Photo by Elaine Johnson
Buttercup squash is a great squash not a lot of people know about, dead sweet,” Paul says, pointing to a handsome, square-shouldered, dark-green squash.
Honeynut squash (bottom). Photo by Elaine Johnson
Honeynut is a sweeter, more intensely flavored version of Butternut,” he explains, showing off some mini squash no bigger than my hand. “They’re deep orange inside.”
Spaghetti squash (left) and Delicata. Photo by Elaine Johnson
Then he shows me oblong, festively striped Delicata squash, also on the small side, which bake up nutty tasting. Paul notes that the thin skin is edible. With a few of each squash tucked into my basket, I’m ready to get cooking. These recipes for 34 ways with winter squash are a handy place to start. Here are a few not to miss:
Squash and chickpea fritters. Photo by Annabelle Breakey
Creamy Squash and Chickpea Fritters with Winter Greens and Hazelnut Salad were a big hit when we cooked them in the Sunset Test Kitchen, and you can make the recipe with any squash.
Cashew, Coconut, and Pumpkin Curry. Photo by Annabelle Breakey
Cashew, Coconut, and Pumpkin Curry is my go-to recipe when vegetarian guests come over, and while it’s especially good with Kabocha squash, I might try it this time with Buttercup.
Nut-stuffed Delicata Squash. Photo by Leigh Beisch
Delicata squash have a short season, so I’m going to be sure and try Nut-Stuffed Delicata Squash while they’re still around. For more on squash varieties and basic cooking techniques, click here. Would you like to share a favorite farmers’ market or farmer with Sunset readers, or are you wondering what to do with seasonal produce? Let us know!