Nothing pretties up a place like a small bunch of squash and pumpkins on the table, especially when today’s decor becomes tomorrow’s dish.

Look beyond butternut squash’s intimidating hard skin, and you’ll find a bright orange flesh, buttery texture and slightly sweet, nutty flavor — with so many meal possibilities! With their unusual shapes and varied colors, winter squash — including acorn, spaghetti and butternut squash — make beautiful table decorations.

Why should you make butternut squash your go-to ingredient for fall and winter meals?

1. It’s a nutritional ingredient with taste, texture and autumn nostalgia.

Butternut squash is one of the season’s all-star ingredients for good reason. It satisfies as the headlining ingredient in recipes like the always-popular Classic Butternut Squash Soup, adds flavor to salads, lends creaminess to rice dishes, and offers sweetness to desserts like Butternut Custard Pecan Pie.

It’s a prime candidate for roasting, which makes for great make-ahead meal planning.

Plus, try winter squash like butternut in place of potato sometimes and you’ll get a rich source of vitamins A and C plus small amounts of a variety of mineral nutrients.

2. It’s got versatile flavor that will pair beautifully with almost anything.

Like other winter squash, butternut squash pairs well with a variety of flavors from cinnamon and cumin to coconut oil and toasted nuts, making it a versatile choice for weekday meals and celebrations too.

3. It’s easy to store, and lasts longer than you might think.

Butternut squash can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dry place for a month or more. After cutting, store it in an airtight container or wrap tightly and refrigerate.

4. It’s easy to cut and prepare…really!

Don’t be daunted by its rock-hard surface! We can help with this how-to guide for cutting butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash.

Its dense flesh caramelizes well, taking on deep sweetness and nuttiness. It doesn’t get more straightforward than this no-prep Easiest Whole Roasted Winter Squash recipe — plunk the whole squash on a baking sheet and roast until tender. Once roasted, serve as-is, or spoon into gratins, casseroles, winter salads and stews. Or you can purée in a food processor until smooth to make soups, risottos, dips and spreads, or baked goods.