Anyone who has ever had a garden – or worked with someone who does – knows all about one of the most prolific of all the summer vegetables – summer squash.
Most have experienced coworkers or friends trying to pawn various vegetables off on us when their supply reaches its tipping point – usually right about this time of year. Summer squash is more often than not one of those vegetables and with tons of potassium and vitamins A and C and folic acid, it’s a great thing to have too much of!
What is Summer Squash?
Summer squash – actually a group of different types of squash including zucchini, patty pan, and zephyr – is technically a fruit as it is part of the same family as melon and cucumbers. There are two major types of squash – summer and winter – which are classified based on their storage length. Summer squash is more delicate and thus doesn’t keep for as long as the more hardy winter squashes.
Storing Summer Squash
When selecting or storing your summer squash there are a few things to know. First of all, try to pick squash that is 8 inches or less as they may become bitter and seedy as they grow larger (use larger squash for pickling or shredded in quick breads – more on that to come). Baby summer squash – picked when only 1-2 inches in length – are very sweet and tender. Squash should have bright and slightly shiny skin. It should be firm (especially at the stem) and feel heavy for its size. Store them unwashed in a plastic bag placed in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week.
How to Cook With Summer Squash
We love squash because it is so versatile. It has a very mild flavor, so it can be used in many ways and in so many types of cooking and baking. As mentioned above, larger squash that isn’t the best for simple preparations is great for canning or baking. Try cutting the squash into spears (like pickles) and can it like you would dilly beans – they taste great! Any summer squash can also be used in recipes for relish or pickles as a substitute for cucumbers – adding some good variety to your pantry while making sure nothing goes to waste.
This month’s recipe is a great way to use two summer vegetables in a simple preparation that makes it a perfect side for a busy summer dinner time. The recipe for ‘yellow squash with kale’ can actually be made with any summer squash depending on what you have on hand. If you leftovers of this dish it is great to sauté the following day with some brown rice or another whole grain, add to a pasta dish or even a frittata or scrambled eggs.
Two of the most common ways to use summer squash are slicing it long and grilling or into rounds and sautéing. Because it is so mild, squash can be chopped or shredded and added to just about anything – pizza, pasta sauce, stir fry, meatloaf, vegetable or bean burgers, soups and stews, quinoa or rice salads – the list goes on! The trendy way to use zucchini is to make “noodles” with a spiralizer. If you get creative, you will never run outs of ways to use all that squash!
For more on summer squash including recipes, factoids, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website.
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
Yellow Squash With Kale
- 3/4lbkale, stemmed, washed, and chopped, slightly damp
- 1Tbspolive oil
- 1lbyellow summer squash, sliced
- 2cloves garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
- 1tspfresh thyme leaves OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2cupwater or vegetable stock
- Black pepper to taste
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add squash and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until lightly brown and translucent.
- Add garlic and stir 30 seconds, then add kale and continue to cook and stir, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add salt, thyme, and 1/4 cup of water or stock, and continue to cook and stir another 5 minutes, until squash and greens are tender. Add more water or stock If the mixture seems dry or sticks to pan. Season to taste and serve.