What on earth do I do with all this zucchini?!
According to most sources, the peak season for summer squash is May through July. Tell that to anyone from Michigan or other Midwest climates, however, and you just might get an odd look or two. That’s because summer squash is in such abundance right now that anyone with a home garden has probably “gifted” you a few of these nutritional wonders, and local farmer’s markets and farm stands are piled high with all kinds of little beauties: zucchini, crookneck and straight neck yellow squash, and pattypan in varying shades of yellow and green. In fact, the biggest question most Midwesterners have this time of year is, “What on earth do I do with all of this zucchini?!” Before summer slips away, let’s take a closer look at this nutritional marvel and how to make it a part of your healthy eating plan.
What exactly makes summer squash so nutritious? It’s loaded with antioxidant vitamins and minerals that work together to:
Promote Healthy Bones
Summer squash contains an array of nutrients necessary for strong bones: Manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and copper
Promote Heart Health
Summer squash is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help keep your cardiovascular system in tune: Vitamins A and C for antioxidant power; magnesium and potassium for blood pressure regulation; dietary fiber, folate, and Vitamin B6 to keep your cardiovascular system in tune; omega-3 fatty acids for anti-inflammatory benefits.
Additional Health Benefits
Summer squash also contains Vitamins B1 and B2, iron, and niacin for energy production; zinc for immune system support; protein for muscle repair; and tryptophan for sleep support. And at just 36 calories per one cup serving, summer squash packs a powerful nutritional punch while helping to maintain healthy weight.
A FEW THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT SUMMER SQUASH
- Squash has been eaten for over 10,000 years. Wild squash was bitter, with very little flesh. Cultivation has made squash much sweeter and more edible.
- Zucchini, yellow squashes, and pattypans were once available only during summer months, hence the name summer squash.
- Three factors distinguish summer squash from its winter cousins: thin, edible skin, soft seeds, and high water content.
- Summer squash is related botanically to both melon and cucumber.
- For the best flavor, select squash that is heavy for its size and has a firm, shiny rind or skin. Smaller squash tend to have fewer seeds and a sweeter taste. Very large squash tend to be fibrous and low in flavor and nutrients.
- Squash will stay fresh for up to 10 days if it is stored in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. For best results, squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing, and don’t wash the squash before storing.
- Because of the high water content, summer squash does not freeze well. However, many vegetable stew and squash bread recipes freeze beautifully. So cook up all of that extra zucchini before it goes bad!
- To release and preserve the most flavor and nutrients, cook summer squash al dente, or until crisp-tender. Most summer squash requires only a few minutes of cooking time.