Every so usually, the world brings squash to the middle of our consideration. If you reside within the US, it’s onerous to keep away from “pumpkin-spice” mania through the winter vacation season. A stroll in a farmers market within the fall will convey you head to head with gourds of all shapes, sizes, colours, and textures. And for a yard gardener, late summer season is the time once we desperately seek for recipes to deal with the bonanza of zucchini that we are able to’t even give away.

While pumpkins, zucchini, and ornamental gourds seize our creativeness, they characterize a tiny fraction of the world of squash. There are over 100 varieties of squash, comprising two principal classes: summer season and winter. Winter squash are additional divided into edible and inedible, with the latter serving each ornamental and purposeful functions. Of course, in the event you’re unfamiliar with the big variety of winter squash, you is likely to be lacking out on some of essentially the most scrumptious and nutritious meals merely since you mistake them for desk ornaments. Let’s dive into these versatile veggies and look at some of the well being advantages of squash.

Where Did Squash Originate?

Frying acorn squash
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The phrase “squash” comes from the Narragansett Native American phrase askutasquash, which suggests “eaten raw or uncooked.” This is as a result of there are lots of sorts of squash, similar to zucchini, that might safely be consumed with out cooking. But whether or not eaten uncooked or cooked, the flesh and seeds supplied carbohydrates, wholesome fat, and a wealthy supply of micronutrients. The hard-rinded winter squash may be hollowed out and dried, after which used to move water or different meals.

The first wild squash appeared in Mexico round 100,000 years in the past. And they’ve been cultivated for greater than eight,000 years, making them one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops. Wild varieties unfold north to what’s now the central United States, and as far south as Argentina. About 20 species of wild squash develop on this vary, which encompasses temperate and tropical areas. All squash are members of the Cucurbitaceae household of the genus Cucurbita.

From 5 of these species (in case you’re coaching for Jeopardy’s “Agriculture Trivia” class) — C. argyrosperma, C. ficfolia, C. maxima, C. moscha and C. pepo — got here the hundred-plus varieties we get pleasure from right this moment. You can discover tan, orange, inexperienced, blue, yellow, and white squash — stable coloured and with stripes.

Squash Types

The primary sorts of squash are often called summer season and winter squash. Summer squash are usually smaller (though in the event you develop zucchini and overlook to reap for a pair of days, be ready for fruit the scale of toddler’s legs!) and are eaten earlier than the rinds and seeds start to harden. Winter squash take longer to develop, are much less symmetrical, and have hardened rinds which might be both easy or rough-textured.

Pumpkins are essentially the most well-known kind of winter squash. Most pumpkins are bred for ornamental (hiya jack o’lanterns!) fairly than edible functions. But, of course, you may make fantastic pumpkin pies, breads, soups, and different hearty fall delicacies from these massive, orange winter greens. Surprisingly, most canned “pumpkin” isn’t pumpkin in any respect, however different varieties of winter squash similar to Delicious and Boston Marrow.

Gourds are winter squash grown primarily for ornamental and storage functions, as they’ve onerous shells and unpalatable and even inedible flesh. Gourds make pretty birdhouses, bowls, and percussion devices.

Here are some of the preferred edible squash varieties:

Winter Squash

Winter squash and gourds
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Spaghetti squash

These are yellow, rectangular squash whose flesh kind into spaghetti-like strands when cooked. They’re nice as a pasta substitute, baked and topped with tomato sauce and plant-based parmesan, or halved and roasted to provide them a nuttier style.

Butternut squash

These are the longevity all-stars of the squash world. After harvesting, retailer them in a cool, darkish place that has simply the correct amount of humidity, they usually’ll overwinter like champs, lasting Three-6 months and even longer. You can peel, dice, and steam the flesh to make creamy and wealthy soups and stews. Or slice and roast them with herbs to get pleasure from butternut squash rings.

Acorn squash

These are, as you may need surmised, formed like big inexperienced acorns. Small sufficient to be the centerpiece of a meal for 2, acorn squash is superior baked or roasted. They have a candy be aware that may be enhanced by drizzling some cinnamon and maple syrup over the flesh earlier than cooking.

Sugar pumpkins

These are simply smallish variations of the traditional orange pumpkin. If you’ve ever carved a big orange pumpkin, you already know that the flesh will be bland, onerous, and fibrous — three adjectives hardly ever utilized by admiring cooks. Sugar pumpkins have softer, sweeter flesh that cooks nicely and gives rather a lot of taste and coloration to vacation dishes.

Carnival squash

Carnival squash is a spread of the adorably-named dumpling squash clan. If you may get a carnival to develop in your backyard, put together for an inundation of fruit. They’re roundish with pretty markings and are nice baked, steamed, sliced on the grill, or stuffed.

Banana squash

These are given the heroic title Cucurbita maxima, are associated to pumpkins and have completely nothing in widespread with bananas besides maybe a obscure resemblance in form. You can slice them into rings or cubes, and use them as you’d use butternut or another winter squash.

Summer Squash

Basket of fresh summer squash
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Zucchini

Zucchini are lengthy, inexperienced summer season squash that may vary in measurement from that of a small banana to Popeye’s forearm. They’re all the identical plant. The solely distinction within the measurement of the fruit is how lengthy they spend on the vine. Given sufficient solar and rain, and first rate soil, a zucchini fruit can develop freakishly giant if the gardener isn’t checking every day. Zucchini is de facto versatile. You can eat them uncooked (spiralized, they turn into zoodles, which, fortunately, isn’t additionally the title of a canine breed), sauteed with basil, stuffed in boat kind, breaded and air-fried, grilled in a pan, or pureed in a soup.

Yellow squash

These are zucchini’s yellow cousins. Same form, comparable style, and comparable culinary makes use of. If you will have entry to each zucchini and yellow squash, combining them in a dish provides a splash of coloration that may flip bizarre into festive.

Crookneck squash

These are yellow squash which have skinny handles, and look somewhat like maracas. Prepare them like different summer season squash: sauteed, steamed for salads, and in casseroles, in addition to in soups and stews, or throw them on a summer season grill.

Calabacitas

Spanish for “little squash,” and also referred to as Mexican squash, Calabacitas are available two shapes: the slender zucchini and the roly-poly spherical squash. Use it as you’ll another summer season squash.

Squash Nutrition

Zucchini and patty pan squash have lots of health benefits
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While every squash selection boasts a barely completely different dietary profile, they share a number of sturdy well being advantages. Squash are good sources of vitamin A, C, and B nutritional vitamins; they’re excessive in antioxidants; they usually’re wealthy in minerals similar to potassium, magnesium, and manganese. And, of course, as complete plant meals, they’re additionally wealthy in fiber and water, making them each hydrating and good for the intestine.

Health Benefits of Squash

A child picks out a zucchini
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Squash are excessive in antioxidants, significantly beta-carotene, vitamin C, and polyphenols. These vitamins assist our our bodies battle a quantity of power illnesses, together with kind 2 diabetes, heart problems, and sure cancers. Higher circulating ranges of beta-carotene, particularly, have been proven to scale back all-cause mortality.

1. Good for Your Eyes

Eating squash frequently can hold your imaginative and prescient eager too. The beta-carotene and lutein in squash, in addition to vitamin C and different antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, are good for the eyes and may also help stop cataracts and macular degeneration.

2. Good for Your Heart

Squash can hold your coronary heart ticking by means of their ample provide of carotenoids, which may also help decrease blood strain, scale back irritation, and downregulate the expression of particular genes linked to coronary heart illness. A 2016 evaluation of a knowledge set from rural China within the 1980s discovered that the extra vegetables and fruit individuals ate, the extra they have been protected against coronary heart illness, in addition to gastric most cancers and stroke. And yellow and orange squash, particularly, have been linked to avoidance of these illnesses.

Three. Good for Balancing Blood Sugar

Banana squash have historically been used as hypoglycemic therapies in northwest Iran in addition to China and Mexico. Researchers in Iran examined the ability of banana squash to manage blood glucose in critically in poor health diabetic sufferers. They gave the sufferers twice-daily doses of powdered banana squash for 3 days and measured blood glucose and the quantity of insulin every affected person required. Within 72 hours, the sufferers’ common blood glucose had dropped from 215 to 178 mg/dl, whereas insulin necessities decreased round 20%. The examine, printed in 2018, concluded that the powdered banana squash was a “fast and effective” remedy for critically in poor health diabetic sufferers.

four. Good for Your Hair and Skin

Squash must also be on the menu if you need wholesome hair and pores and skin. Several compounds present in squash, most notably beta-carotene, are related to a wholesome dermal (pores and skin) microbiome.

5. Cancer-Fighting Compounds

The well being advantages of squash varieties like zucchini are myriad: they include many bioactive compounds that battle most cancers. And they do it in a number of methods: from combatting genotoxins (poisonous brokers that injury DNA molecules and trigger mutations and tumors) and cytotoxins (compounds that injury all cells, just about indiscriminately), to triggering programmed cell loss of life in broken cells which may in any other case flip cancerous (a course of often called apoptosis).

GMO Squash

Summer squash in the produce section of grocery store
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Despite the myriad well being advantages of some squash, some of the zucchini and yellow squash grown within the US are genetically modified. GMO squash accounted for about 12% of summer season squash bought within the US in 2005, and in some uncommon excellent news for skeptics of GMO agriculture, that quantity seems to be dropping. In 2017, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that American farmers grew about 2,500 acres of genetically modified or in any other case bioengineered summer season squash, out of a complete harvest of 37,000 acres. The varieties to look out for embody inexperienced zucchini, yellow straight-neck, and yellow crookneck squash. While not sometimes awash in pesticides, summer season squash has nonetheless made it onto the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Winter squash may additionally be sprayed with pesticides, so it’s finest to purchase your squash organically grown every time doable. Ideally, you may be capable to get your zucchinis and butternuts from a small farm, native CSA, or farmers market. Or even higher — develop them your self.

How to Grow Squash

Both summer season and winter squash are among the many best meals to develop, and each produce prolifically. Chances are, you’ll find yourself freely giving rather a lot of summer season squash, and want a good quantity of space for storing for winter squash. Want to know methods to develop squash? Click right here for some ideas.

How to Choose & Store Squash

Guy picking out a winter squash in grocery store
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Whether you’re rising or shopping for zucchini or yellow squash, search for fruits round six to eight inches lengthy. If you’re getting a scalloped selection similar to patty pan, you need them three to 6 inches in diameter. If the pores and skin is just too onerous to be marked by a thumbnail, it’s too outdated to make use of and ought to be composted or thrown away. You ought to retailer summer season squash within the vegetable crisper of the fridge for not more than 4 days (take a look at the cooking recommendations and recipes under for tons of inspiration to make use of them rapidly). You can even freeze summer season squash to be used in breads and soups. Remove the peel, minimize them into slices or cubes, and drop in boiling water for 3 minutes — adopted by three minutes in ice water. Drain the squash, and pack it in freezer-friendly containers for later use.

When choosing winter squash, search for fruits with out comfortable spots, bruises, or mould. Choose one which feels heavy for its measurement. Don’t fear about little bumps or discolorations of the rind, these are regular. Winter squash lasts far longer than summer season squash: as much as Three months at room temperature, and twice that or extra in a cellar, or one other setting that’s darkish, dry, ventilated, and funky (50-55 levels Fahrenheit). Don’t wrap the squash in plastic, as they should breathe. Once you narrow right into a winter squash, don’t retailer it open within the fridge, until you possibly can put it in a crisper drawer or paper bag to stop it from drying out.

Best Ways to Prepare Squash

Cutting butternut squash, which is full of health benefits
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Squash is extremely wholesome and versatile and goes nicely in tons of dishes — and with many various cooking strategies. You can bake, roast, or steam winter or summer season squash, or water saute it with herbs to convey out its nutty taste. Summer squash can be nice on the grill. Winter squash can grill as nicely, but it surely’s higher to steam it first so the skin doesn’t scorch earlier than the within is cooked.

Squash can taste, bulk up, and supply texture and selection in soups and stews. You can go away it in chunks, or puree it. If you will have choosy eaters to feed, you possibly can disguise wholesome squash in selfmade tomato sauces. Fresh summer season squash, uncooked or steamed, is a superb addition to salads. And baked winter squash cubes can present intense taste, chewiness, and even some crunch to a hearty winter salad. Summer squashes can steadiness out the notes of eggplant and tomato in ratatouille, making it acceptable to much less adventurous palates. Butternut squash and zucchini each work nicely as a pasta too in the event you put them by means of a spiralizer. Winter squash will be pureed and utilized in baked items and pies, simply as you’d use a can of pumpkin pie filling.

When it involves squash, there’s virtually no finish to the methods you possibly can put together and luxuriate in this excellent, prolific, and delightful meals. For quick inspiration, and to reap the well being advantages of squash, listed below are three recipes to get you began.

Three Healthy Squash Recipes

Slicing yellow squash for healthy recipe
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Now that you’ve an entire new appreciation for squash, in all its versatile and nutrient-dense magnificence, it’s time to eat some! It will be loved baked, grilled, steamed, and even (for summer season squash) uncooked. It may also be mixed with tons of different components as a result of of its impartial taste. Use it usually, and particularly in these Food Revolution Network recipes. Let us understand how you like to get pleasure from squash!

Raw Zucchini Cannelloni

Raw zucchini cannelloni

Want to impress your visitors? This is the best appetizer recipe as soon as your Herbed Cashew Cheese is ready (which can be tremendous straightforward!). But it’ll look and style prefer it took you days to make!

Southwest Veggie Burgers

Southwest veggie burger on leaf lettuce

These Southwest Veggie Burgers are a terrific instance of how one can sneak greens into any choosy eater’s food regimen. Even although neither they nor you’ll discover the squash, it’s enjoying a necessary binding function with its fiber and moisture – to not point out the vitamins it brings to the desk!

Cheesy Squash Casserole

Cheesy squash casserole on plate

There’s no hiding it, squash is the star of the present right here — and for good purpose! It makes a scrumptious casserole mixed with different greens, cashew cheese, and contemporary herbs. Enjoy it with summer season squash through the spring and summer season and butternut squash through the fall and winter.

The Wonders of Squash

Young girl holding zucchini and looking at butterfly
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Squash is a key participant in lots of culinary traditions world wide — and an easy-to-grow dietary celebrity. With so many various varieties of each summer season and winter squash, there’s no scarcity of methods to get pleasure from including extra squash to your food regimen. In addition to being scrumptious, squash is wealthy in nutritional vitamins and phytonutrients which might be good in your eyes, your coronary heart, and your cells. It’s additionally comparatively straightforward to develop, offering a wealthy supply of nourishment for minimal time and financial funding. Experiment with differing kinds of squash, and provides these recipes a attempt!

Tell us within the feedback

  • What’s your favourite variety of squash?
  • What’s your favourite option to put together summer season squash? Winter squash?
  • How will you utilize squash in your well being?

Featured picture: iStock.com/fotokris

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