My favorite vegetable is definitely yellow summer squash. Squashes are members of the gourd family, which also includes watermelons, cucumbers, muskmelon, pumpkins, and gourds. Squash was a popular food of Native Americans who ate it about 5500 B.C. The blossom of the squash was the Hopi emblem of fertility. The writings of the earliest explorers and colonists include references to squash.
Selection of summer squash
Skin should appear fresh, glossy, tender, and free from blemishes. Both the skin and seeds are eaten. Avoid over-developed summer squash—it has hard rind, dull appearance, and enlarged seeds and tends to be stringy. Also avoid spots and bruises.
Varieties to look for
— Crookneck and Straight Neck — should be a delicate yellow with pebbly skin; gold color indicates it is over-ripe.
— Zucchini —dark green, long, and straight, 8 to 10 inches in length.
— Cocozelle —similar to zucchini, except smaller with green and yellow stripes.
— White Bush Scallop —green flesh with white tinge; smooth skin, scalloped edges.
— Spaghetti Squash—yellow to golden yellow skin, light yellow flesh, 8 to 10 inches long and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. After cooked in water about 30 minutes, flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands.
Summer Squash are best when eaten soon after picking or after purchasing. If you need to store, keep them in the refrigerator and use in 3 to 5 days.
Due to the many variables, such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is impossible to give specific recommendations as to quantity to buy. The recommendations below are approximations.
1 bushel squash = 40 pounds
1 bushel squash = 16–20 quarts canned
1 pound squash = 2–3 servings
The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommend that adults need 2–2½ cups of a variety of vegetables daily. Squash is a great choice to meet this requirement. They contain antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, some B vitamins, iron, calcium, and fiber. Summer squash contain about 15 calories per cup.
Clean surfaces, utensils, and hands after touching raw meat and poultry and before you use them on fresh produce. To remove dirt, bacteria, and possible pesticide residue, wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water. Do not use soap, dish detergent, or bleach when washing since these household products are not approved for human consumption.
Dry completely before storage, especially if refrigerated, to discourage growth of bacteria and mold. We recommend that you only prepare the amount of fresh squash that you plan to use for a recipe or for a meal. Extra squash can be frozen.
Squash may be baked, boiled, steamed, grilled, broiled, pan-fried, or pressure cooked for immediate use.
Source: Ohio Cooperative Extension
Summer Squash Casserole
6 small yellow summer squash (3 pounds) cut into chunks
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons dried minced onion
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons butter, melted
Place squash in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, pressing squash to remove excess liquid. In a bowl, mash the squash. Stir in the eggs, ½ cup bread crumbs, sugar, onion, salt and pepper until blended.
Transfer to a 1 ½ qt. baking dish, coated with nonstick spray. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Toss the remaining bread crumbs with butter. Sprinkle over the top of casserole. Bake 20 – 30 minutes longer or until golden. Yield: 8 servings
Dilled Summer Squash
4 cups sliced squash (yellow and/or zucchini)
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons snipped fresh dill or ½ teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
In a large saucepan, combine the squash, water and onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until tender. Drain. Stir in butter, dill and pepper. Yield: 4 servings
Sandra R. Cain is the Extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Bladen County.