A summer squash is a subset of the squash group which is harvested in an immature state. It belongs to the genus Cucurbita and is occasionally referred to as a vegetable marrow. They are also characterized by their short storage lives. The summer squashes are generally cooked with their skins scrubbed thoroughly instead of being peeled before cooking. Scousa, zucchini and scallop squash belong to the category which are available throughout the year in spite of its name. The seeds of the summer variety of squashes are usually edible too.
These vegetables are considered to be exceedingly nutritious and are rich in carotenoids. They are high in antioxidant content as well making it beneficial for getting rid of the harmful free radicals and accumulated toxins within the body. The carbohydrate rich vegetable is also believed to regulate the insulin level and is beneficial for diabetic patients according to the research studies.
USA is curently the largest importer of summer squashes although it is also one of the top growers of the vegetable along with Russia, India and China.
History of Summer Squash
Summer squashes are believed to be indigenous to Mexico along with South and Central America. Archeological digs have recovered preserved seeds from the summer squashes in Mexican caves that could be well over 10,000 years old.
The Spanish conquestors introduced both varieties of squashes to Europe which rapidly became popular throughout the Western World. The Native Americans considered the summer vegetable to be one their staples and referred to it as one of the three sisters along with maize and corn.
Summer Squash Types
Zucchini- This is an elongated, green colored vegetable that turns yellow on ripening. The flowers of the plant are edible with the squash often sporting speckles or stripes. The courgettes, cocozelle and black beauty are some of the varieties consumed in the United States.
Straightneck & Crookneck Squashes- They are very similar in shape and eaten when they ripen to a bright yellow color. A Cushaw is a special variety of the crookneck squash and is used as an ingredient for baking especially in pies.
- Scallop Squashes- They are also known as pattypan squashes and vary in color from green to pale yellow and golden. The squash is shaped like a saucer and is slightly sweeter than the other varieties of the summer squash.
Popular Summer Squash Recipes
Fritata- A low-calorie sautéed dish of zucchini and tomatoes, covered with an egg topping. It is served with an avocado or romaine salad usually.
Mexican Soup- A flavorful and zesty soup, prepared with zucchini cooked in vegetable or chicken broth and served with a cilantro garnish.
- Stuffed Squash- A baked dish of pattypan squash that has been filled with a stuffing of eggs, Gruyère Cheese, French spinach and Cayenne pepper.
Summer Squash Buying & Storage Tips
The squashes are usually perishable and do not keep for longer periods. It is essential to buy average sized ones with unblemished skins as the bigger ones tend to be very fibrous.
The ideal way to store summer squashes is to steam-blanch before refrigerating them.
The summer squash, known as the scallop squash, is pickled with sweet vinegar in Poland.