Every so typically, 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 carry you head to head with gourds of all shapes, sizes, colours, and textures. And for a yard gardener, late summer season is the time after 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 primary classes: summer season and winter. Winter squash are additional divided into edible and inedible, with the latter serving each ornamental and useful functions. Of course, should you’re unfamiliar with the wide range of winter squash, you may be lacking out on some of probably the most scrumptious and nutritious meals merely since you mistake them for desk ornaments. Let’s dive into these versatile veggies and study 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 varieties of squash, corresponding 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 take pleasure in in the present day. You can discover tan, orange, inexperienced, blue, yellow, and white squash — stable coloured and with stripes.

Squash Types

The fundamental varieties of squash are referred to as summer season and winter squash. Summer squash are usually smaller (though should you develop zucchini and overlook to reap for a pair of days, be ready for fruit the dimensions 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 can be both clean or rough-textured.

Pumpkins are probably the most well-known sort of winter squash. Most pumpkins are bred for ornamental (whats up jack o’lanterns!) reasonably than edible functions. But, of course, you may make fantastic pumpkin pies, breads, soups, and different hearty fall delicacies from these large, orange winter greens. Surprisingly, most canned “pumpkin” isn’t pumpkin in any respect, however different varieties of winter squash corresponding 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 offer 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 take pleasure in 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 basic orange pumpkin. If you’ve ever carved a big orange pumpkin, you recognize that the flesh might be bland, onerous, and fibrous — three adjectives hardly ever utilized by admiring cooks. Sugar pumpkins have softer, sweeter flesh that cooks properly and gives so much of taste and coloration to vacation dishes.

Carnival squash

Carnival squash is a range 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 identify 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 massive if the gardener isn’t checking day by day. Zucchini is absolutely versatile. You can eat them uncooked (spiralized, they change into zoodles, which, fortunately, isn’t additionally the identify 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, related style, and related culinary makes use of. If you’ve got entry to each zucchini and yellow squash, combining them in a dish provides a splash of coloration that may flip abnormal into festive.

Crookneck squash

These are yellow squash which have skinny handles, and look a bit of 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 called Mexican squash, Calabacitas are available in two shapes: the slender zucchini and the roly-poly spherical squash. Use it as you’d 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 totally 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 corresponding to potassium, magnesium, and manganese. And, of course, as entire 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, notably beta-carotene, vitamin C, and polyphenols. These vitamins assist our our bodies battle a quantity of continual ailments, together with sort 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 might help forestall cataracts and macular degeneration.

2. Good for Your Heart

Squash can hold your coronary heart ticking via their ample provide of carotenoids, which might help decrease blood strain, cut 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 folks ate, the extra they had been shielded from coronary heart illness, in addition to gastric most cancers and stroke. And yellow and orange squash, particularly, had been linked to avoidance of these ailments.

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 facility of banana squash to manage blood glucose in critically ailing 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, revealed in 2018, concluded that the powdered banana squash was a “fast and effective” remedy for critically ailing diabetic sufferers.

four. Good for Your Hair and Skin

Squash must also be on the menu in order for you 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 harm DNA molecules and trigger mutations and tumors) and cytotoxins (compounds that harm all cells, just about indiscriminately), to triggering programmed cell dying in broken cells that may in any other case flip cancerous (a course of referred to as 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 offered 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 embrace inexperienced zucchini, yellow straight-neck, and yellow crookneck squash. While not usually awash in pesticides, summer season squash has however made it onto the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Winter squash might also be sprayed with pesticides, so it’s greatest to purchase your squash organically grown every time doable. Ideally, you may be capable of 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 so much of summer season squash, and wish a good quantity of cupboard space for winter squash. Want to know find out how to develop squash? Click right here for some suggestions.

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 corresponding to patty pan, you need them three to 6 inches in diameter. If the pores and skin is simply too onerous to be marked by a thumbnail, it’s too outdated to make use of and needs 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 (try the cooking ideas and recipes beneath for heaps of inspiration to make use of them rapidly). You may freeze summer season squash to be used in breads and soups. Remove the peel, lower 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 smooth spots, bruises, or mildew. 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 chop right into a winter squash, don’t retailer it open within the fridge, except you possibly can put it in a crisper drawer or paper bag to forestall 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 properly in heaps 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 carry out its nutty taste. Summer squash can be nice on the grill. Winter squash can grill as properly, 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’ve got choosy eaters to feed, you possibly can cover wholesome squash in do-it-yourself tomato sauces. Fresh summer season squash, uncooked or steamed, is a good 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 properly as a pasta too should you put them via a spiralizer. Winter squash might 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 revel in this glorious, prolific, and exquisite meals. For quick inspiration, and to reap the well being advantages of squash, listed here 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 might be loved baked, grilled, steamed, and even (for summer season squash) uncooked. It will also be mixed with heaps of different substances as a result of of its impartial taste. Use it typically, and particularly in these Food Revolution Network recipes. Let us know the way you like to take pleasure in squash!

Raw Zucchini Cannelloni

Raw zucchini cannelloni

Want to impress your friends? This is the best appetizer recipe as soon as your Herbed Cashew Cheese is ready (which can be tremendous simple!). 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 an ideal instance of how one can sneak greens into any choosy eater’s food plan. Even although neither they nor you’ll discover the squash, it’s enjoying a necessary binding position 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 cause! It makes a scrumptious casserole mixed with different greens, cashew cheese, and recent 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 around the globe — and an easy-to-grow dietary famous person. With so many various varieties of each summer season and winter squash, there’s no scarcity of methods to take pleasure in including extra squash to your food plan. In addition to being scrumptious, squash is wealthy in nutritional vitamins and phytonutrients which can be good in your eyes, your coronary heart, and your cells. It’s additionally comparatively simple to develop, offering a wealthy supply of nourishment for minimal time and financial funding. Experiment with differing types of squash, and provides these recipes a strive!

Tell us within the feedback

  • What’s your favourite variety of squash?
  • What’s your favourite approach 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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