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Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Squash

Summer Squash:

About:

Summer squash are a subset of squashes that are harvested when immature, while the rind is still tender and edible.  Nearly all summer squashes are varieties of "Cucurbita pepo" though not all Cucurbita pepo are considered summer squashes.  Most summer squash have a bushy growth habit, unlike the rambling vines of many winter squashes.  The name "Summer Squash" refers to the short storage life of these squashes, unlike that of winter squash.  

Varieties:

Summer squashes include:
  • Cousa squash, a pale colored zucchini variety
  • Pattypan squash (Scallop squash)
  • Tromboncino or Zuchetta
  • Yellow crookneck squash
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Zucchini (courgette)
  • Immature Ridge gourd luffa
By contrast winter squashes include:
  • Acorn squash
  • Big Max
  • Butternut squash
  • Kabocha Red kuri squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Turban squash

History:

Scientists have found squash seeds (including summer squash seeds) preserved  in Mexican caves for more than 10,000 years.  Domestication of summer squash originated in Mexico and Central America.  Cultivation of squash (including summer squash) quickly became popular in North, Central, and South America.  Native Americans often referred to squashes as the "three sisters" alongside corn (maize) and beans.  Columbus brought back squash from North America to Spain.
Commercial production of squash now takes place worldwide..  The U.S., China, India, and Russia are among the largest producers.

Health Benefits:

As an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamin C  summer squash provides us a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients.  Summer squash also contains an unusual amount of other antioxidant nutrients including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanathin.  These antioxidants are especially helpful in protection of the eye including against macular degeneration and cataracts
The presence of B-complex vitamins in summer squash is related to healthy blood sugar regulation.  Included are the B-vitamins folate, B6, B1, B2, B3, and choline.  Also important in blood sugar metabolism are the minerals zinc and magnesium as well as omega-3 fatty acids, all provided by summer squash.  The presence of Omega-3 fats in the seeds of summer squash, the presence of anti-inflammatory carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, and the presence of anti inflammatory polysaccharides like hemogalacturonan make summer squash a natural choice for protection against unwanted inflammation.
The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients in summer squash is a very logical nutrient combination for providing anti-cancer benefits.

Selecting and Storage:

Choose summer squashes that are heavy for their size, and have shiny, unblemished rinds.  The rinds should not be very hard since this indicates the squash are over mature and will have hard seeds and stringy flesh.  Choose squash that are average in size as overly large may be fibrous and overly small may have inferior flavor.
Store unwashed squashes in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about 7 days.


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Zucchini, Mint, and Yogurt Spread

1 large zucchini sliced lengthwise  and cut into 1 inch half moons
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3 TBS fresh mint, roughly chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper 
green olives for garnish

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Sprinkle zucchini with salt and pepper and add to pan.  Cook for about 5 minutes turning so both sides are browned.  Remove from heat.
Once zucchini is cooled to  room temperature place in food processor.  Add mint and lemon zest (reserving some of both for garnish), pinch of salt, pepper and yogurt.  Pulse until pureed.  
Spread dip onto serving plate and drizzle remaining olive oil and reserved lemon zest and lemon peel. Add olives if desired.  Serve with wedges of pita or sliced vegetables.

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