Warmer temperatures have finally arrived, and with that comes the addition of colorful, bountiful, and nutritious summer squash. These plants produce abundant amounts in a short period of time, and while they are available throughout the year, summer squash are best, and most nutritious, when eaten in season between May and July. If you are a gardener, you know that within a very short time of planting a single zucchini seed, there will be hundreds barging out of your garden! By August you will be bargaining with people to take them off your hands.
Summer squash is a classification for several different varieties of squash. The term is usually reserved for types of squash that are harvested while the rind of the plant is still tender and edible. This is different than winter squash varieties, such as acorn or spaghetti, that have a harder rind that must be removed before preparation. Although squash is actually a fruit, it is considered a vegetable in culinary use. Varieties of summer squash include zucchini, yellow crookneck, scallop or pattypan, and yellow straightneck squashes. A great addition to any summer meal, these fruits pack in adequate amounts of nutrition.
- Zucchini – You can credit Italian immigrants with introducing this most popular squash to the United States. Zucchini can grow to nearly a meter in length, but are usually harvested at half that size or less.
- Yellow crookneck – Another common and popular summer squash, this variety has a bright yellow rind that is soft and edible. The body of this type of summer squash is similar to a gourd, complete with the fuller body and smaller neck that is common with many types of gourds. The crookneck squash can be cooked or sliced and diced for use in salads or as a bit of color on a raw vegetable platter.
- Pattypan – Pattypan comes in yellow, green, and white varieties. This squash is most tender when relatively immature; it is generally served when it is no more than two to three inches in diameter. In fine cuisine, its tender flesh is sometimes scooped out and mixed with flavorings such as garlic prior to reinsertion; the scooped-out husk of a pattypan is also sometimes used as a decorative container for other foods.
- Yellow straightneck – Also called yellow zucchini, good-quality yellow Straightneck should be firm, smooth-skinned and small in size. The surface will be shiny and bright yellow in color.
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What is the nutrition in summer squash?
One cup sliced is approximately 18-30 calories, 0.2 gr. fat, 0 cholesterol, 3mg. sodium, 5 grams carbohydrate, and 2-3 grams of fiber.
Squash is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It’s also a good source of Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Calcium, Iron and Phosphorus, and a great source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. That’s a lot of nutrition no matter which way you serve it up.
How to select and store summer squash:
Always look for squash that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Additionally, the rinds should not be very hard since this indicates that the squash are over mature and will have hard seeds and stringy flesh. Purchase summer squash that are of average size since those that are overly large may be fibrous, while those that are overly small may be inferior in flavor.
If you haven’t discovered local farmer’s markets yet, use this handy link to find the freshest produce in your area. It’s a great way to start your weekend mornings.
Squash should be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about seven days. While it can be frozen, this will make the flesh much softer. To do so, blanch slices of summer squash for two minutes before freezing.
Tips on using summer squash:
As one of the most versatile veggies around, you can grill, roast, steam, sauté, fry, stuff, or pickle these tender fleshed edibles, or use them raw as part of a colorful veggie platter as a dipper.
Try these unique ways to incorporate more squash into your diet today:
- Grate on top of salad to add color and boost vitamins
- Add to lasagna, spaghetti, or as a pizza topping
- Cook it as a “fettuccine”. Slice in very thin ribbons using a mandoline or vegetable peeler. Quickly sauté in a little olive oil with garlic and lemon zest. It makes a great accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.
- Make a ratatouille by sautéing summer squash, onions, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, then simmering in tomato sauce. Season to taste.
- Grill it – Cut into cubes and skewer with mushrooms and peppers. Make a basting sauce with olive oil, lemon juice, and dried parsley, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
- Grilled veggie sandwich – Grill a variety of summer squash, red peppers, and thickly-sliced red onion. Use your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing, and serve topped with cheese on a nice crusty roll.
- Stuff them – Scoop out the insides and add any mixture of onions, garlics, mushroom, or meat. Add the pulp back in the mixture with some egg and breadcrumbs, top with cheese, and bake.
- Add to baked goods such as breads and muffins, egg dishes, or crepes. The sky’s the limit.
Click and print this recipe for stuffed pattypan squash with bacon.
Whether it’s cooked and presented as a savory dish, added as an accompaniment, or in bread or muffins, start enjoying nutritious summer squash today. So little summer ~ so much squash!