Featured Vegetable: Summer Squash
When you think of squash, pumpkins and gourds may be the first items that come to mind. However, did you know that one of the most widely sold and cultivated squash is a zucchini? While there are many varieties of squash, all with different shapes, sizes and colors, they are most often simply categorized as winter or summer squash. The defining difference between these categories depends on when the fruits of the plants are harvested. Winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash and pumpkin, is harvested at the end of the season when the fruits are mature and the outer shells (or rinds) are thick. Summer squash, including zucchini, yellow crookneck, and yellow straightneck squash, is harvested during the season when the fruit is immature and the skin is still soft.
Since it's the peak of summer and the barbecuing season, it's the perfect time to experiment with new summer squash recipes and cooking techniques. These nutritious and colorful vegetables are very easy to prepare and cook. Summer squash is not known for having overwhelming flavor, but rather for its texture and ability to take on other flavors. Adding herbs, spices, seasonings and marinades can really give a new twist to an old summer squash recipe. Even switching up your usual preparation method can unveil new flavors. At your next cookout, try grilling zucchini which imparts a smoky flavor. If you like to experiment try a new marinade before grilling or cook the squash en papillote.
Whatever cooking method you choose, you'll find that zucchini and yellow squash are easy to prepare, low in calories and rich in vitamins and nutrients. One cup of raw summer squash contains 20 calories, 1 gram of fiber, and over 30% of the daily value of vitamin C. The colorful skins of summer squash also contain phytonutrients, so make sure to always prepare this vegetable with the skin on!
When you are shopping for summer squash at the grocery store, select ones that are firm to the touch without any visual bruising or soft spots. Wash thoroughly and store summer squash in an air-tight bag or container and keep refrigerated. Summer squash spoils quickly, so use within a few days of purchase! Even better try your hand at growing some in your garden. Summer squash are easy to grow and mature quickly so they can be planted through mid-summer for early fall enjoyment.
Remember that zucchini and yellow squash are interchangeable in recipes so be creative! Check out these recipes for some inspiration: