Squash – Part 5

We’re looking at the last grouping of “squash” today – the gourds. Gourds have hard rinds and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and thickness (from eggshell thin to over an inch thick). Gourds are related to squash, (including pumpkins), being in the same plant family group, Cucurbitaceae, and grow on vines with coiled, climbing tendrils displaying this most unique fruit. The edible, soft shell gourds are the squash or pumpkin, and are enjoyed in many culinary uses. The inedible, hard shell gourds are more commonly used as colorful decor and are not to be eaten, but are used in other unique ways.

Gourds are native to Africa but have been on the earth for thousands of years at least, and experts believe  they are one of the first plants that has spanned the entire globe and been cultivated throughout the world. In fact, it was a gourd that grew over Jonah to shade him from the heat when he was angry that the Lord forgave the people of Nineveh.

Even before written history began, gourds were used in numerous ways. Native Americans in North America used them to make pottery and necessary utensils for their daily living. Today they are often used as decor (shells painted and even carved), as utensils, vessels, hats, and musical instruments. Africans used  gourds as bowls, bottles, and needed pottery items. When dried, the rattling of seeds within allows the musicians to use the gourds as percussion instruments. Interestingly enough, today especially in the Caribbean, gourds are used as resonating chambers on particular stringed instruments and drums. Hawaiians made musical instruments out of gourds including a gourd whistle, gourd flute and gourd ocarina (an ancient flute-like wind instrument).

Gourds are colorful and have unique characteristics and can add beauty to your fall or Thanksgiving table decorations. I have a few small ones with my pumpkin collection on our dining room table in fact (see picture on the right).

There are basically three types of gourds:

Hardshell gourds are considered the gourds of history, as we’ve already mentioned, because they were/are used as containers, tools, utensils, and musical instruments. These type of gourds make great bird houses, too.

Ornamental gourds  have thinner shells, and are smaller and brightly colored. They can have bumps on them or ‘warts’ and some can be spikey. They’re the ones you see at most supermarket produce areas in the fall and they are similar to the ones that sit on my dining room table right now. 

Luffa is the sponge gourd. Yes, you can get sponge from a gourd, but this type of gourd is a bathtub friend. These gourds grow on yellow-flowered vines very much like cucumbers. Once the fruit section matures and is processed to remove everything but the fibers, then it is ready to be used as a bath or kitchen sponge. You might have even seen this type of processed gourd marketed as luffa or loofah, a sponge gourd used like a body scrub. You might have even walked on this type of sponge gourd because luffas are also used to make the soles of beach sandals.

If you’re interested in learning more about gourds, there is plenty of information at your fingertips (on the web). You can find everything from magazines about gourds, to how to decorate and carve gourds, and how to find groups or clubs of gourd lovers. If you just want to enjoy their colorful uniqueness, then get a few different ones and add them to your fall or Thanksgiving decorations/displays. Based on their lengthy history I’d say gourds are here to stay, wouldn’t you?

Squash – Part 4

In this segment of our study of winter squash, we’ll look at several others types that you may or may not have seen or be familiar with. I hope you’re also checking out the various squash recipes we’re including on the website as well. In case you’re wondering, all recipes we post we have tried ourselves. We’ve had some spaghetti squash with marinara sauce over it and even with shrimp and it’s very good.

Variety

Characteristics

Recommended Use

Green-Striped Cushaw Crookneck shape, mottled white and green striped, yellow flesh, slightly sweet yellow flesh best suited for pies; taste much like pumpkin
Spaghetti Squash semi-soft, yellow, round, sweet boil, bake or steam, add to pastas and salads
Sweet Dumpling light, dark green, firm, sweet, rich flesh bake and stuff with sautéed peppers and goat cheese
Turban bright orange color, fairly sweet bake, mash, purée, steam or stuff, popular as ornamental

I find the shape of the Green-Striped Cushaw Squash very interesting. It’s has a similar crookneck-shape as other squash types but compared to the yellow crookneck variety of summer squash, the green-striped cushaw squash is much bigger, averaging 10 to 20 pounds, up 18 inches long, and usually 10 inches in diameter at the widest portion. It tastes much like a pumpkin and some even suggest it could be an even better alternative. This squash works well in savory dishes as well as sweet ones. If you live in northern climates, this squash stores very well and provides a good source of vitamin C, especially in the winter. The large seeds are often toasted for snacks or ground and made into sauces and moles which many Native cultures enjoy. In various culinary cultures it is a prized foodstuff for those in the southwest to the southern Appalachians, and to the Louisiana Creoles.

A most interesting squash is a watermelon-shaped squash with flesh that separates into long, pale yellow or blond spaghetti-like strands. It shouldn’t be surprising that they call it Spaghetti Squash. It is also known as vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, and spaghetti marrow. This squash has a mellow taste with a slight crispness not found in pasta. This squash can range in color from ivory to yellow or orange. To make sure you purchase a ripe squash look for one where the rind is bright yellow color. (The orange varieties contain higher carotene content). When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash, but when you cook it, the flesh falls away in ribbons or strands like spaghetti. It may very well be a squash you will want to try.

Sweet Dumpling Squash is an excellent squash for stuffing and roasting. It resembles a miniature pumpkin with ribs and its top pushed in, and it usually weighs around 7 ounces. It is cream-colored with green specks. The Sweet Dumpling Squash is sweet squash with a tender orange flesh. When baking this squash, you need not peel the outside, but be sure to remove the seeds in the center. Once it has baked simply scoop out the center and enjoy! Nutritionally speaking, sweet dumpling squash is loaded with vitamin C, a range of B vitamins and beta carotene. This squash is very popular as an ornamental, especially when grouped with other small squash, gourds, and pumpkins.

Turban Squash is yet another beautiful squash with a most unusual shape, sometimes even considered bizarre. It is a winter squash that is often used as an ornamental with other squash types or gourds. It can even be used in a centerpiece decoration or as a tureen filled with squash soup. The colorful skin is quite hard and is not eaten. The flesh is thick and dry, orangey or golden-yellow, with a flavor that is mild, yet very sweet with nutty overtones. Mature turban squashes can weigh up to 3 pounds and usually measure 6-8 inches in diameter.

It has orangey or golden-yellow flesh that is thick and dry, but mild and very sweet with nutty overtones. Turban squash measure 6-8” in diameter when mature and weigh about 3 lb. This squash adds not only flavor but added nutrition to muffins, puddings, and even cookies. It is definitely a versatile winter squash.

This next squash is not on the list adapted from Whole Foods, but it is intriguing enough that I want to share it with you. Just because of its look, I’m not sure I would want to try it, but in Chinese cuisine many use it in stir-fry, while others use it in soups, curries because the bitter or quinine flavor is often combined with garlic or chile. What is this strange, unique and intriguing squash? It is the Indian Bitter Melon Squash. As you can see from the picture, it resembles a bumpy prickly cucumber and is only 4-5 inches long. Indian Bitter Melon is yellow-green to dark green and has a fibrous, seed-filled core. As it ripens its flavor turns slightly sour. It is very popular throughout South Asia, Northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In Japan it is a significant ingredient in Okinawan cuisine. You might find it somewhere in the states without having to travel to Japan or Asia if you look hard enough.

We’ve completed our look at Winter Squash, and in the next segment we’ll turn our attention to gourds. In the meantime I hope you’ll take some time in the produce section at your local store checking out the varieties of winter squash. We’ve enjoy a few Italian dishes with Spaghetti Squash and we like it…you may want to try it, too.

Goto Squash Part 5

Squash – Part 3

Our look at winter squash continues in this segment. Keep in mind that there are many varieities of squash and pumpkins as we’ll see today. I will be highlighting a portion of them, particularly showing unique varieites, but you may very well find other types at your local grocery store that Ihaven’t mentioned. I hope through these articles, you’ll gain a better understanding of many varieties of squash, and incorporate them into your daily diet.

The ones we’re looking at today are highlighted in the table below.

Variety

Characteristics

Recommended Use

Pumpkin characteristically orange with ridges, the most common is the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin, but there are many varieties usually carved for Halloween festivities, but can be cooked, mashed and mixed with sautéed garlic, leeks and sage-the pumpkins seeds can be roasted as well.
Kabocha green rind with light streaks bake, steam, remove seeds before cooking

The pumpkin has been called a gourd-like squash because of its similarities to squash. They typically have a thick, orange or yellow shell, are creased from the stem to the bottom, and contain both seeds and pulp.  Pumpkin stems are very rigid thick and prickly, compared to most other squash stems. You may be surprised to learn that Pumpkins are 90% water but still have great nutritional value as we’ve already seen in other winter squashes.

The word pumpkin comes the Greek word pepon, meaning “large melon”, but was the first American colonists who called this large, melon-shaped food pumpkin.

Pumpkins  are one of the most popular crops produced in the United States each year. That shouldn’t be too surprising because the one you’re most familiar with is the Jack ‘O Lantern pumpkin. When our son was just 1-year old we lived in New York for several months while Jack received some training, and outside of our motel room was a huge pumpkin patch.

The top pumpkin-producing states in the U.S. include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. The Nestlé company produces 85% of the processed pumpkin in the U.S., and you may even have a can of their product on your shelf just waiting to be made into pumpkin pie.  The current world record for the largest giant pumpkin is 1,810 pounds…that would make a ton of pumpkin pies, wouldn’t it?  (That’s Chris Stevens with his winning record and pumpkin).

Even within this same grouping of winter squash that is closely related to gourds, are other types of “pumpkins”. You may have seen some of these at your local farmers market or in your local grocery store. We’ll look briefly at some of them.

Two particular French pumpkins varieties are the Fairytale Pumpkin and the Cinderella Pumpkin. The fairytale pumpkin is also known by its French name “Musquee de Provence.” Its squat shape with deep lobes makes it a flatter pumpkin. The Fairytale Pumpkin is thick but tender, and the deep orange flesh is very flavorful, sweet, thick, and firm. It starts out a warm russet color and gradually turns a cheese color. This pumpkin is usually used for baking but can be used ornamentally as well.

Cinderella Pumpkins – Cinderella Pumpkins are a unique French heirloom pumpkin. Its French name is “Rouge vif D’Etampes”. The shape is similar to the fairytale pumpkin and as you can guess from its name, pumpkin resembles Cinderella’s carriage. It is possible that this could have been the pumpkin variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner.

Cheese Pumpkins – These types of pumpkins originated between Central and South America, but as with other pumpkin or squash types, they gradually found their way to North America with traders/explorers. It is said to be one of the oldest domesticated squashes to be selected for food and animal feed. The Cheese Pumpkin has smooth, non-stringy flesh that is bright orange, and its overall shape resembles a wheel of cheese. It became popular in Long Island and in the 1960s-1980s when farms cultivated this pumpkin type. It is not surprising then that this variety of cheese pumpkin grown on Long Island became known as the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.

Sugar Pie Pumpkins – These are smaller than the typical pumpkins used for jack o’ lanterns often referred to as field pumpkins. They usually have a deep orange-yellow skin color, with deep ribbing. Sugar Pie pumpkins have a great pumpkin flavor, a fine grain texture, and are sweeter than other varieties. Many people prefer to use this type of pumpkin for their pumpkin pies. Besides using them in pumpkin pies, you can bake, roast, mash, or puree these like you would other winter squash.

Red Kuri Pumpkins – This type of pumpkinor squash is bright orange, has a hard shell with hearty, firm flesh, grows to maturity in full sun, and is drought tolerant. Each vine produces multiple teardrop-shaped fruits, usually three. It is a Japanese squash but is grown in the United States, Mexico, Tasmania, Tonga, New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa. In the United Kingdom it is commonly called Onion Squash.  The Red Kuri pumpkin is full-flavored and sweet with a succulent nutty-flavor. It can also be used in a variety of soups, stews, and cassaroles, and even in cakes, breads, muffins, cookies and pies.

White Pumpkins – Did you even know there was such a thing as a white pumpkin? I was surprised myself and thought it would be interesting to mention them here. They are albinos with a natural white skin that had been bred by pumpkin growers. They were once more of a novelty but are becoming increasingly popular and common, especially in the New England area. White pumpkin can be substituted for regular orange pumpkin in many recipes, including pumpkin pie or for pumpkin soup. Now that you’re aware of white pumpkins, I’m sure you’ll be able to spot them very quickly.

Kabocha Squash or Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin – Kabocha Squash is also known by several other names— Hokkaido, Japanese Pumpkin, Ebisu, Delica, or Hoka. The name Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash, although most often it refers to a buttercup type squash. The Kabocha outer skin can be a dark green, and mottled or a bluish-gray or a deep orange skin with flesh that is usually deep yellow. These squash are large, round and rather squat in appearance, and are a variety of the buttercup squash. Blue Hokkaido is also called Blue Hokkaido Pumpkin so we mention it here with other “other” pumpkins types. It is has gray-blue skin and bright orange flesh. Both of these types of squash/pumpkin have a subtle sweetness combined with a deep nutty flavor and creamy texture. They bake and roast well and can be added in soups.

We still have a few more types of winter squash to look at before we delve into the gourds. In the meantime, when you head to your local grocery store, check out the varieties of winter squash.  I hope you will try some new ones, also. Enjoy!

Goto Squash Part 4

Squash – Part 2

We looked at Summer Squash in the last segment. Today we’ll look at Winter Squash. There are many varieties and it will take two segments to sufficiently cover them all.

Winter squash is also known as hard squash. It comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe from the New World, and like many other foods its cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Today, the largest commercial producers of squash include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.

Most people have thought only leafy vegetables are the best source of antioxidants, but winter squash is being recognized more because of the generous antioxidant benefits it provides. There isn’t a single food that provides a greater percentage of certain carotenoids—carotenoid antioxidants-than winter squash in its varied colors—the richer the color, the richer the concentration of these antioxidants. In fact, winter squash includes the anti-inflammatory omega 3s in the form of what is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The combination of these compounds in winter squash shows this food to be a clear potential for cancer prevention as well as cancer treatment.

Similar to summer squash, winter squash is an excellent source of five B-complex vitamins (vitamin B1, B3,B6, pantothenic acid, and folate), not to mention vitamin C, niacin, and the mineral, manganese.  Not only that, but studies have shown that winter squash is helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease because it helps block the formation of cholesterol in the cells. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A. So, if you thought squash (winter squash) was for the birds, you’re wrong. It’s incredibly healthy for you!

Because the list of most popular and available types of winter squash is lengthy, we’ll split this segment into two parts. A quick overview of the most popular winter squash varieties is shown in the table below. (This was taken from information by Whole Foods on their website, www.wholefoodsmarket.com, winter squash). The highlighted ones will be covered in this segment with short references to other types of winter squash as well.

Variety

Characteristics

Recommended Use

Acorn small, deep green or pumpkin-colored bake and stuff or drizzle with butter, maple syrup and cinnamon
Hubbard or
Blue Hubbard
large, mottled skin (Hubbard)
large, attractive (Blue)
cook, mash and mix with sautéed garlic, leeks and sage; Blue is great for stuffing.
Buttercup round, green, firm delicious with fruit stuffing or add chunks to soups
Butternut orange, peanut-shaped high in vitamin A, mash, bake, add cubes to stews
Delicata small, cylindrical, striped skin ideal for baking or whipped with applesauce and brown sugar
Gold Nugget tiny pumpkin shape, firm, sweet, buttery flavor cook before cutting
Pumpkin characteristically orange with ridges, the most common is the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin, but there are many varieties usually carved for Halloween festivities, but can be cooked, mashed and mixed with sautéed garlic, leeks and sage-the pumpkins seeds can be roasted as well.
Kabocha green rind with light streaks bake, steam, remove seeds before cooking
Red Kuri bright orange, hard shell hearty, firm flesh is ideal for less sweet recipes
Spaghetti Squash semi-soft, yellow, round, sweet boil, bake or steam, add to pastas and salads
Sweet Dumpling light, dark green, firm, sweet, rich flesh bake and stuff with sautéed peppers and goat cheese
Turban bright orange color, fairly sweet bake, mash, purée, steam or stuff, popular as ornamental

The first variety of winter squash is Acorn Squash. This type of squash in the most commonly available in the United States, but Butternut Squash is a close second. Acorn Squash is a small, round squash with groves that are even and encompass the entire squash. The skin color is predominantly dark green with occasional splotches of orange and yellow. The flesh color is a yellowish pumpkin orange. The unique flavor of this squash is a combination of flavors: sweet, nutty, and peppery. This squash is good roasted, baked, steamed, mashed, or sautéed. Smaller sized squash are excellent for stuffing, providing a delightful vegetarian main course for special dinners.

The next variety of winter squash is Hubbard Squash. Hubbard squash are the largest winter squash you’ll find, besides pumpkins, of course. They are slightly tear-shaped and their skins are dark green to pale grayish blue as well as peace/orange coloring. Because of their size, hubbard squash is often sold in chunks more appealing to the average cook and come pre-cut and seeded. They are very sweet with a distinct pumpkin flavor, and the longer they’re stored, the sweeter they are. Because of their extra-thick skins they are easy to store through the winter, actually up to five months if kept properly cool and dry. The squash is named after its found, a woman named Elizabeth Hubbard. She originally showed the squash to a neighbor who was also a seed trader, James H. Gregory, and he subsequently introduced it to the market in the 1800’s as Hubbard squash. Gregory later bred and released the Blue Hubbard, which has a bluish-gray skin.

Many cookbooks say the best way to enjoy Hubbard squash is roasted, seasoned with rosemary and black pepper but they can also be baked. Once baked or roasted, you can mash them with lots of butter and spices (nutmeg and yes, even cumin). It can be available year-round but the peak season is early fall throughout winter.

Buttercup squash is yet another variety of winter squash. By the American Revolution, the species was in cultivation by Native American tribes throughout the present-day United States. By the early 19th century, at least three varieties are known to have been commercially introduced in North America from seeds obtained from Native Americans. With a turban shape (a flattish top and dark green skin), weighing three to five pounds, and normally heavy with dense, yellow-orange flesh. This particular squash can be roasted, baked, and even and added to soups or as filler in stews, etc.  It is extremely popular, especially as a soup, in Brazil and Africa.

Butternut Squash is probably one of my favorites, besides Banana squash. It has been said that this squash is a gateway squashthe squash for people who aren’t sure they like squash. If you haven’t tried many or any squash varieties, you might want to start with butternut squash. Its texture is less stringy than other winter squashes, and tastes sweet. Some say it tastes just a little nuttier than a sweet potato. Because of its unique shape, it is easier to first cut it in half between the neck and bulb portion, then you can peel it. Once you’ve cut and peeled it, it’s easy to scoop out the seeds. Cut or slice into 1-inch pieces and steam. Once steamed, just add a little sugar or stevia as desired before mashing, and you’ll become a squash lover. You can also bake it, but for baking any winter squashes, you won’t want to peel the outside skin.

Delicata Squash is a small squash, oblong, with bright yellow, orange or dark green stripes. The skin is is exceptionally thin and surprisingly edible. It is also called Peanut squash and Behemian squash. Delicata Squash is a cross between butternut squash and sweet potato and has been called the sweet potato squash. It is an heirloom variety, originally introduced to the public in 1894 and was popular through the 1920s but then fell into obscurity until more recently. The flesh of this squash is a little drier than other squash but it is sweet and nutty with a distinct corn-like flavor. Be sure to use this squash soon after purchasing because it does not store as long as other winter squash.

Gold Nugget Squash is also known as Oriental pumpkin. It was developed in 1966 at the North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota. It is brightly orange or salmon-colored, and the skin is dull with fine ridges. It is about the size of a small grapefruit but has a sweet, buttery flavor.  Gold nugget squash is a hard-skinned like most winter varieties but easily bakes whole or halved. The cooked flesh can be pureed and added to risotto. You can cook diced pieces of this squash with onions, carrots, celery and broth until softened before adding it into soup. It is best to store gold nugget squash in a cool, dry area for up to a month before using.

Banana Squash is cylindrical in shape, and some grow quite large, anywhere between 10-to-70 pounds! You will usually find it marketed in cut pieces. The flesh is moist and hearty, finely textured, and sweet. Banana squash is  not specifically mentioned in the table by Whole Foods, but they are available in the produce section at your local store. If you’re not a squash lover, start with butternut squash, then banana squash, and work your way through other delicious and healthy varieties of squash. As I mentioned earlier, it is probably my most favorite of the winter squash. You can fix banana squash as you would butternut or buttercup squash and it easily bakes, also.

Here are some helpful suggestions on how to fix winter squash. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Wash squash; cut into desired size and remove skin. Bake, roast, grill, steam or purée into soups and sauces. To store, wrap cut squash in plastic; refrigerate up to one week.

For most types of squash you only need to steam it for 7 minutes. Here are some quick serving ideas for winter squash.

  • Cook and then purée and add either cinnamon or maple syrup—kids will love this!
  • Winter squashes generally pair well with these seasonings – cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, fruit juice, toasted nuts, raisins, apples, onions, and parmesan cheese.
  • An idea from Whole Food suggests steaming cubes of winter squash and serving it dressed with oil, tamari, ginger and pumpkins seeds.
  • Add pasta sauce to the “strings” of spaghetti squash for a delightful new pasta dish that children and adults will thoroughly enjoy.
  • Cubes of winter squash can be added to your favorite vegetable soup or vegetable chili.

In the next segment we’ll look at some more varieties of the winter squash. In the meantime, when you’re at your local grocery store, stop and check out the varieties of winter squash they offer. I hope you’ll be tempted to get some squash!  Enjoy!

 Goto Squash Part 3

Squash – Part 1

What is sometimes green, sometimes yellow or even red and orange, sometimes speckled or striped, has unique shapes, and is good to eat and good for you? If you answered Squash”, you are correct!

Squash is a unique vegetable that includes many healthy, nutritional benefits, and the variety in squashes can entice even the finickiest of eaters. Not only are the tastes unique and textures vary, squash is a good source of vitamins B1, C, B6, niacin, potassium, as well as others that we’ll discuss later.

Squash has been around for hundreds of years at least. Some archaeologists suggest that squash was first cultivated in Mesoamerica 8,000 years ago. Closer to our current timeframe, though, research shows that Native Americans cultivated and ate squash before this country came into existence. Native Americans planted what they called the “Three Sisters”, and squash was one of the ‘sisters’. The Three Sisters incorporated the three main native crop plants: maize (corn), beans, and squash. They usually planted these together so that the cornstalk provided support for the climbing beans as well as shade for the squash, while the squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds. (Weeds are detrimental to the growth of squash). And, interestingly enough, the beans provided nitrogen for all three crops.

There are three main categories of squash, but we’ll look at each one separately: Summer Squash, Winter Squash, and Gourds. Even though summer is past, let’s look at the types of Summer Squash to begin our study.

Summer squash is a tender, warm-season vegetable that grows in the United States anytime during the warm, frost-free season. Farmers harvest it before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. Summer squash plants grow in bush-type plants and differ from winter squash plants which spread out closer to the ground. Only the female flowers of summer squash produce fruits but there are both male and female parts to the squash plant that has been pollinated. Leafstalks and stems of summer squash tend to be prickly and can scratch the skin so care is needed when picking them.

In the United States there are three main types of summer squash. They are Zucchini, Crookneck or Yellow Squash, and Scalloped Squash or Pan Patties. We want to touch briefly on these varieties because in some parts of the country it is available year round.

Zucchini Squash is one of the most popular summer squashes. It has a mild flavor, is versatile, and is enjoyed grilled, fried, sautéed, baked, and even in desserts. It is easily recognizable with its often glossy, dark green skin. There are some varieties of zucchini that are yellow and even striped or speckled. The unique shape of zucchini squash has been described similar to a ridged cucumber, although there are some round varieties available in various parts of the world. It’s also called a baby marrow in Africa, and a courgette in South Africa, Great Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand.

The Zucchini is actually the fruit that grows on the zucchini plant, the flowers of which are edible, although I don’t know any restaurants personally that serve both the ‘fruit´ and the edible flowers. Zucchini squash is low in calories with approximately 30 calories per cup, and has no fat. Per serving, zucchini is high is folate, potassium, vitamin A, and contains a good percentage of manganese.

Zucchini is enjoyed throughout the world and fixed in a variety of ways. In Italy, they serve zucchini usually breaded and pan-fried. In France zucchini is the key ingredient in ratatouille which is a stew of summer fruits and vegetables. In Turkey they enjoy zucchini pancakes, while in Greece it is usually fried or boiled with green chili peppers and eggplants. One of our favorite ways to eat zucchini is with tomatoes, garlic and onions, which is a familiar dish in Egypt. You can grill zucchini and even stuff it  with a number of other vegetables or meat.  Though you will find zucchini more prevalent in the summer, you can find it year around. There are many ways to enjoy this healthy food.

Yellow Squash or Crookneck Squash is yet another summer squash. You immediately recognize it because of its yellow color and swan-like appearance—the bulb part with a curved neck, although you may find some without as much curve in the neck part. This squash is tender and has a mildly sweet flavor. Some crookneck squash can also display light green skin.  

Most summer squashes have high water content, but overall, they are low in calories– 25 calories per cup. Yellow squash is an excellent source of Vitamin C and B2, and can be found year-round in grocery stores. It is also rich in potassium and carotenes with no fat and a little fiber per serving.

Many times it you will find yellow squash paired with zucchini squash as a colorful side vegetable dish. If you haven’t tried this type of squash, I recommend it. My mother-in-law and daughter both LOVE a yellow squash casserole that “Grandma” made for us years ago. We’ll include the recipe this month so you can try it next time you find yellow crookneck squash at the store.

The third type of summer squash is the Scalloped Squash or Pan Patties Squash. Just from the name you have an idea of its shape: small flat, saucer-shaped squash with scalloped edges. When I was growing up I heard it referred to as summer squash. You can find this squash year-round, but its peak season is May through August. It is also called Pattypan Squash, Sunburst Squash, Baby Summer Squash, Scallop squash, Granny squash, Custard marrow, or Custard squash.  Not surprising that its French name, pâtisson, comes from a word for a cake made in a scalloped mold.

Scalloped Squash comes in three different colors – yellow, light green, and white. As we said, they have scalloped edges.  When I was young, my mother would clean and quarter them and cook them until tender, adding a little butter, salt and pepper and serve. I like all the squash varieties, but always thought this type was more “fun” to eat because of its shape.

In fine dining and cuisine, a chef will scoop out the tender flesh of scalloped squash and mix with flavorings, such as garlic, and reinsert and serve as accompaniment to an entrée. Scalloped or Pattypan Squash is a good source of magnesium, niacin, and vitamins A and C. One cup contains approximately 20 to 30 calories and no fat. It can also be sliced, coated and fried until golden brown.

I hope you can see from this brief study that summer squashes are versatile, delicious, and healthy for you. Here’s to the various types of squash – summer, winter, spring, and fall—I hope you’ll enjoy them all!

Goto Squash Part 2