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Acorn squash nutrition facts

Acorn squash is another most popular winter squash variety after pumpkin, and butternut squash in the USA. It has acorn-like shape with disc like flat upper end and angled, long lower pavilion.

Botanically, it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family of vegetables and closely related to other winter squash varieties such as pumpkin, delicata, butternut squash, hubbard, spaghetti, Japanese kuri hokkaido, calabaza, etc.

Scientific name: C. pepo var. turbinata.

Acorn squash
Acorn squash. Note for deep lobed, dark green color squash.

Completely matured fruit measures about 4 inches in width and 7 inches in length, and weighs about 400 to 700 grams. Its outer deep green skin marked by ridges running lengthwise. As in other winter squash types, acorn squash also features a hard skin. It prefers organic, well-drained, sandy soils for best growth. After about 35-40 days after plantation, yellow flowers appears which soon develop into attractive, elongated fruit pods.

Inside, flesh of acorn squash is golden-yellow as in pumpkins. They come in a variety of colors and sizes dark green, yellow, yellow-orange, variegated; however, the most common variety of acorn squash is the dark green squash.

Apart from its fruits, winter squash blossoms including acorn flowers are popular items in the kitchen and commonly employed to make a great side dish. Male blossoms generally picked up, and female flowers left for fruitigs. Small numbers of female flowers with intact, very tiny fruit (baby acorn squash) can also be sold in the markets and indeed, fetch a higher price. Acorn greens (tips and tendrils) also enjoyed in some Southeastern countries like Philippines.

Health benefits of acorn squash

  • Acorn squash has relatively higher calories compare to pumpkin and pattypan. 100 grams of raw fruit holds 40 calories, almost the same as for butternut squash (45 cal). Besides, it carries no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is a good source of dietary fiber.

  • Acorn squash is a gluten free food item.

  • Fresh fruits carry relatively modest amounts of vitamin-A than pumpkin; provide about 367 IU per 100 g. Vitamin-A is important for cell growth and development, and for good vision.

  • Unlike other winter squash types like pumpkin and butternut squash, acorn is a modest source of flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

  • Together with vitamin-A, pigment compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease processes.

  • Fresh acorn holds relatively more amounts of vitamin C (18% of RDA /100 g), pyridoxine, and thiamin than pumpkin. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis in bones, cartilage, and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron.

  • It provides 17 µg or 4% of RDA per 100 gm of folates. Folate is a necessary element for cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately during early pregnancy, it may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn.

  • Like other winter squash varieties, acorn fruit also has less sodium (1 mg/100 g) but good amounts of potassium (347 mg/100 g), an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressing effects of sodium.

  • Further, acorn squash carry modest levels of other B-complex groups of vitamins like pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Acorn squash (C. pepo var. turbinata), raw with skin, Nutrition value per 100 g.

(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 40 Kcal 2%
Carbohydrates 10.42 g 8%
Protein 0.80 g 1%
Total Fat 0.10 g <1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g 4%
Vitamins
Folates 17 μg 4%
Niacin 0.700 mg 4%
Pantothenic acid 0.400 mg 8%
Pyridoxine 0.154 mg 12%
Riboflavin 0.010 mg <1%
Thiamin 0.140 mg 12%
Vitamin-A 367 IU 12%
Vitamin-C 11 mg 18%
Electrolytes
Sodium 3 mg <0.5%
Potassium 347 mg 7%
Minerals
Calcium 33 mg 3%
Iron 0.70 mg 9%
Magnesium 32 mg 8%
Manganese 0.167 mg 6%
Phosphorus 36 mg 5%
Selenium 0.5 µg <1%
Zinc 0.13 mg 1%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-ß 220 μg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 μg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 38 μg --

Selection and storage

Acorn squash available around the year in the markets. Buy fresh, medium size fruits with intact stem. Avoid damaged, cuts and punctured, spots, bruise, etc.

At home, cured acorn squash can stay fresh up to 3 months when kept in a cool, dry storage area you do for other winter squash like butternut, pumpkin, etc.

Cut sections, however, should be used immediately. Or else, you may prefer to keep inside a plastic wrap in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity for extended use (for 2-3 days).


Preparation and serving methods

At home, wash fruits in cold water to remove any surface dirt. Trim the stem end. Being a winter squash member, acorn has tough skin which should be peeled using a knife. Cut the fruit into small cubes, wedges or just in halves as you may desire to use them in cooking. It is sought after in a variety of recipes such as mashed, pureed, stuffed, grilled, roasted, etc.

As in other squash, acorn flowers, baby fruits, and young tender shoots and tendrils are also an edible delicacy. In general, male blossoms picked up for making fritters, stuffing, etc. To prepare, open up flowers and carefully inspect for insects. Pull off any calyces attached firmly at the base.


acorn-squash-apple-stuffing
Acorn squash stffing recipe. Photo courtesy: mlcastle.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Fresh, tender, thin slices acorn squash can be added to vegetable salads.

  • The squash blossoms dipped in chick-pea flour batter, fried in oil and enjoyed as delicious snacks.

  • As in pumpkin, it can be employed in pies, casseroles, cakes, pudding, etc.

  • Pureed acorn squash blended with onion, carrot, and garlic to make a delicious soup.

  • The fruit cut in halves, scooped off seeds, and stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, and herbs, and baked in oven.

  • Acorn squash kernels can be eaten as snack. Simply toast the seeds in the oven and enjoy!


Safety profile

Allergic reactions to acorn squash are rare. Pregnant women and infants can safely consume it. (Medical disclaimer).



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Further reading:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database.

  2. Winter Squash-University of the district of Columbia.

  3. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (PDF).




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