Summer squash is on its way; lock the doors

Soon to be arriving in a farmers market near you – zucchini and other summer squashes.

As a child, I remember the neighbors only locking the doors during zucchini season and the sensation of zucchini overload after a multitude of dinners had some form of zucchini being offered. Now as a parent I recognize the value of this versatile vegetable and am preparing my children for the upcoming wave of summer squash offerings. It’s only right to carry on this tradition and offer these healthy vegetables in my home.

Michigan summer squash is typically available July through September and should not be confused with its close relative the winter squash which is available September through December. Nearly all types of squash, both summer and winter, are packed with antioxidants which help our bodies function at their best level and with Vitamin A which maintains eye, skin, and bone health.

Summer squash provides Vitamin C, helping combat unwanted inflammation and omega-3 fats and other anti-inflammatory compounds to help protect the body’s heart, blood vessels and GI tract. The fiber in squash also helps maintain GI and regular bowel function. Squash is also a source of B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and may also help regulate blood sugar.

When selecting a summer squash, carefully inspect the squash for sunken or moldy spots or cuts or punctures in the skin. These types of blemishes can cause the whole squash to easily rot.

Recommended varieties of summer squash include Cocozelle, Crookneck, Pattypan, Straightneck, White Scallop and Zucchini. Summer squash has an edible soft shell, seeds and creamy white flesh and can be eaten raw or cooked. Since the skin of summer squash is antioxidant rich, it is recommended to keep the skin on. If cooking, steaming has been determined to be the best way to maintain nutrient qualities and retain the optimum amount of antioxidants. Washing this vegetable prior to eating is strongly encouraged. After the squash is cooked and used, place the squash in the refrigerator within two hours.

Healthy recipes for squash are readily available on the internet. One recipe site that is particularly useful is the USDA recipe finder. Simply enter the ingredient in the search function and nutritious recipes that include that ingredient will pop up. Also included in the results are the nutrition values and costs associated with the recipe. This site will also assist in creating a shopping list based on the recipes selected.

The USDA ChooseMyPlate campaign encourages us to make sure that half of our plates are made up of fruits and a variety of vegetables. This fact sheet, 10 tips to help you eat more vegetables, provides tips on how to add more vegetables to your diet.

For more information about using, storing and preserving summer squash, visit the Michigan State University Extension Michigan Fresh summer squash fact sheets.

Summer Squash, Italian Style

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 summer squash (large, thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • Salt and pepper (optional, to taste)
  • 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese (grated)

 Instructions

  1. Using a large, ovenproof frying pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil to medium high.
  2. Arrange squash in pan, add water and season lightly with salt, pepper and basil.
  3. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until tender crisp.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with remaining oil. Place under a preheated broiler and broil until cheese melts and browns slightly.

Tip: Add cut up fresh tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, eggplant, onions, or other vegetables in season.

Cost: Per recipe: $0.98
Per serving: $0.25

Source: Connecticut Food Policy Council, Farm Fresh Summer Recipes

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