Butternut squash: Pass up the pre-packaged cubes and do it yourself

Traci Arbios

Gigantic, shaped like a peanut, unwieldy: all things that describe the butternut squash, one of the most delicious fall fruits.

Surprise! That football-size squash used as a vegetable in all kinds of savory recipes is not a vegetable at all. A member of the gourd family, butternut squash can be roasted, toasted, sauteed, mashed, pureed or baked into any number of delightful veggie-based dishes — but nonetheless remains a fruit. A really big, slightly awkward fruit.

Usually found near the root vegetables at the grocery, butternut squash is pale peach in color and resembles a massive Marshmallow Circus Peanut candy. Its hard exterior protects a stiff, pumpkinlike inner meat that, also like a pumpkin, is surprisingly versatile. Thanks to that exterior, these suckers are built to last — surviving up to six months after harvest.

Perhaps it's this very diehard nature that many find off-putting, and thus, like so many foods these days, butternut squash can be found cleaned, diced and pre-packaged in most grocery refrigerated sections. But these packages are small, offering perhaps half the amount of fruit at the cost of buying one whole. There's something to be said for convenience, sure — but I say don't fear the fruit.

Here's an easy way to break down a butternut squash.

What You'll Need:

One butternut squash

Sharp knife

Vegetable peeler

Cutting board

Set the gourd in all its splendor on the cutting board. Admire its voluptuous shape. Recognize it could be used as a weapon in an emergency. Appreciate its awesomeness. Then, placing it lengthwise, gingerly slice off each end. Discard the ends.

Slice though the middle of the gourd widthwise.

Removing the squash's skin can be done in one of two ways, depending upon the tools at hand.

The first, using the vegetable peeler in the standard way, is fairly quick and preserves more of the squash.

Or, if you prefer, use the knife and remove the skin by making downward cuts along the outside of the fruit.

Discard the skin.

Scoop out the seeds, which may be reserved and used in a multitude of ways (including salted and roasted akin, to pumpkin seeds), or discarded.

Slice the squash into chunks and use as desired.