The acorn squash got its name because its shape resembles the small nut of the oak tree (although, obviously, it is a lot larger). Usually deep green (but occasionally golden or variegated), it is distinctive for the deep ridges that run from the stem end to the base. As with other types of winter squash, the rind is hard and can be difficult to cut into. The squash has pale golden to orange flesh and a large cavity filled with seeds and fibres.

When buying acorn squash, look for a firm, unblem-ished rind. If kept whole, the squash can be stored for months in a cool, dry place.

The size of the squash means that half of one is sufficient to serve an individual as a side dish. Cut it in half lengthwise (from stem to base) and scoop out the fibres and seeds. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil and bake until the flesh can be easily pierced with a fork. If you want a more substantial dish, fill the cavity with flavourful mixtures such as bread and sausage stuffing. Cube some day-old (and therefore slightly dry) bread and mix with melted butter, salt and pepper, chopped fresh herbs and enough chicken or vegetable stock to moisten the bread. Add crumbled raw Italian sausage (removed from the casing), cream and freshly grated parmesan cheese, then fill the squash cavities. Drizzle with olive oil then bake until the squash is tender and the filling is cooked. Serve hot.

Acorn squash seeds can be prepared the way you would pumpkin seeds: rinse well to rid them of their slimy moisture, then dry them with a clean dish towel. Sprinkle with salt, then spread the seeds in one layer on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees Celsius, mixing often, until dry and crisp.