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August 7th, 2017

The Edible Gourd

by Yael Ben-Chaim

Summer squash—in all its glorious shapes, sizes, and colors— fill the tables of Maryland farmers markets in these hot summer months. Squash is in the Cucurbitaceous family, along with cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and gourds. Summer squash is an edible, warm-season gourd that is grown throughout the United States. Different from winter squashes, it is harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures from June through October.

Nutrition:

Summer squash is high in Vitamins A and C and calcium. Together, these nutrients enhance the immune system and assist with iron absorption. In vegetables, Vitamin A is absorbed as a Beta-carotene, a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant to help prevent cell damage. Vitamin A also promotes normal growth of cells in the body, helps to keep skin healthy, and is essential for eyesight, particularly night vision. One cup of summer squash, is about 32% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin A.

Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that holds the bones, muscles and skin together. Therefore, vitamin C is essential for healthy skin care, and is used topically in many skin care products. One cup of summer squash is about 21% and 27% for men and women respectively of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and is stored in the bones and teeth, which depend on calcium for their strength and maintenance. The bones use calcium when remodeling to resorb and deposit the calcium into new bones as the body grows and changes.  One cup of summer squash is about .17% of the Recommend Daily Allowance of calcium for an adult.

Selection:

The skin of summer squash should feel smooth. Avoid squishy and heavily bruised squash. Summer squash can come in a variety of yellows and greens. While most summer squash have similar flavors, smaller squash tends to be sweeter and more tender. Bigger isn’t always better, particularly when it comes to summer squash!

Storage:

Fresh summer squash can be stored in a refrigerator for up to a week.

Summer squash also freezes well, making a perfect addition to wintertime stir fries or baked goods. To freeze, summer squash should first be blanched following these steps:

  • Slice summer squash into slices
  • Boil for three minutes
  • Place boiled squash in ice bath for three minutes
  • Drain in colander and allow to dry
  • Place in air-tight freezer bag.

Frozen summer squash will last up to a year. When ready to use, lightly thaw. Sauté with seasonings of your choice or use in your favorite zucchini bread recipe!

Recipe:

Pairing: Summer squash has a mild taste and absorbs the flavors of other foods and spices well.

Cheesy Summer Squash Sauté from Simply Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs squash and/or zucchini, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 2 smallish tomatoes or one large tomato, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 5 or 6 slices of cheese – jack or cheddar
  • Basil, either dry or chopped fresh
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, squash, and bell pepper and sauté on high heat until vegetables are slightly browned.
  2. As you are browning, sprinkle either dried basil or chopped fresh basil on the vegetables.
  3. When vegetables are slightly browned, remove from heat, add the slices of cheese, and cover the pan.
  4. In a separate pan, cook tomatoes at medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the juice from the tomatoes evaporate some.
  5. After 5 minutes, add tomatoes to the rest of the vegetables and stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

About the Author Yael Ben-Chaim

Yael is a food-lover, interested in local food systems and farmers markets. Follow Yael's blog posts on farmer market produce, recipes, and nutrition information. Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Maryland Farmers Market Association and is developing a seasonal food education program for MDFMA.