Monday, May 12, 2008


Squash are fleshy vegetables protected by a hard rind. They belong to the plant family that includes melons and cucumbers. Among substances present in summer squash are these two phytochemicals, coumarins and flavonoids. The skin and rind of summer squash are rich in the nutrient beta-carotene, but the fleshy portion of this vegetable is not. To gain the full nutritional benefits of this vegetable, the skins or rinds must be eaten.

Squash has been a staple for the Native Americans for more than 5000 years, and was a mainstay for early European who settled in America. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were enthusiastic squash growers. In the nineteenth century, merchant seamen returned from other parts of the Americas with many new varieties. This resulted in the various colors, shapes, and sizes that are available today.

Even though some varieties grow on vines while others grow on bushes, squash are commonly divided into the two groups, summer and winter. There are several types of summer squash, but zucchini is the most popular summer squash purchased in the United States. Summer squash come in many different colors and shapes. The different varieties of squash can be used interchangeable in most recipes, because most squash are similar in texture and flavor.

How to Select
Choose squash that are firm and fairly heavy for their size, otherwise they may be dry and cottony inside. Look for squash that have bright, glossy exteriors. Avoid buying squash that have nicks or bruises on their skins or ones that have soft spots.

Place summer squash in plastic bags and store in the refrigerator. Fresh summer squash should keep for up to a week. Thicker-shinned varieties such as chayote will stay fresh for two weeks or longer.

Make Squash Part of Your 5 A Day Plan
It is easy to make summer squash part of your 5 A Day Plan, and even more so when you know it is free of fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and low in calories and high in vitamin C.
Try cooking several varieties of summer squash together. This will make a colorful side dish.
Try adding some of your favorite seasonings (dill, lemon juice or lemon pepper, Creole, chili powder) to summer squash that has been steamed, sautéed, or grilled. 
Squash can be used to make great tasting casseroles or in fast stir fry.
Marinate and grill it on the grill what a great taste
Sliced or grated raw squash can be a wonderful addition to your favorite salad.
Add sliced squash with dried tomatoes to rice when you cook it.


A Primer on Winter Squash, North Coast Cooperative.

The Sweet & Savory Sides of Winter Squash, by Ris Lacoste, Taunton Press.

Winter Squash Good Keepers in Produce Department, by Patricia Aaron, Sept. 24, 2003.

Wonderful Winter Squash, by Terra Brockman, Conscious Choice, October 2002.

Add yellow and zucchini squash to your next vegetable tray. 
Grated summer squash makes a good substitute for carrots in a carrot cake.