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Winter squash facts for kids

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An assortment of winter squashes

Winter squash is an annual vegetable representing several squash species within the genus Cucurbita. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature stage when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. At this stage, most varieties of this vegetable can be stored for use during the winter. Winter squash is generally cooked before being eaten, and the skin or rind is not usually eaten as it is with summer squash.

In New Zealand and Australian English, the term "pumpkin" generally refers to the broader category called "winter squash".

Planting and harvesting

Squash is a frost-tender plant meaning that the seeds do not germinate in cold soil. Winter squash seeds germinate best when the soil temperature is 21 to 35 °C (70 to 95 °F), with the warmer end of the range being optimal. It is harvested whenever the fruit has turned a deep, solid color and the skin is hard. Most winter squash is harvested in September or October in the Northern Hemisphere, before the danger of heavy frosts.

Nutritional value

Quick facts for kids
Winter squash, all varieties, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy  ?
Carbohydrates 8.59g
- Sugars 2.2 g
- Dietary fiber 1.5g
Fat 0.13 g
Protein 0.95 g
Vitamin A equiv. 68 μg (8%)
- beta-carotene 820 μg (8%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 38 μg
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.04 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.062 mg (4%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.5 mg (3%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.188 mg (4%)
Vitamin B6 0.156 mg (12%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 24 μg (6%)
Vitamin C 12.3 mg (21%)
Calcium 28 mg (3%)
Iron 0.58 mg (5%)
Magnesium 15 mg (4%)
Manganese 0.164 mg (8%)
Phosphorus 24 mg (3%)
Potassium 350 mg (7%)
Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Winter squash is a low-calorie food and a good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). It is also a source of iron and beta-carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta-carotene content.

Subspecies, cultivars and varieties

Cucurbita maxima

  • Ambercup squash
  • Arikara squash
  • Atlantic Giant
  • Banana squash
  • Buttercup squash
  • Georgia candy roaster
  • Hubbard squash
  • Jarrahdale pumpkin
  • Kabocha - "Hokkaido squash"
  • Lakota squash
  • Mooregold squash
  • Red kuri squash - also called "orange Hokkaido squash" or "baby red Hubbard squash"
  • Turban squash

Cucurbita argyrosperma

Cucurbita moschata

Cucurbita moschata Butternut 2012 G2
Butternut squash is a variety of winter squash
Bunga nin kalabasa
Calabaza, a winter squash common in Cuba, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines
  • Butternut squash
  • Calabaza
  • Dickinson pumpkin
  • Long Island cheese pumpkin
  • Fairytale pumpkin squash or Musquee de Provence
  • Kent pumpkin

Cucurbita pepo

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