South Carolina-grown summer squash is available mid-May through September.
Summer Squash is Good for You
Summer squash is very low in calories. Many squash varieties provide:
- vitamin C, vitamin A
- beta carotene, if the skin is eaten.
How to Buy Summer Squash
Look for small to medium-sized squash, no bigger than 8 inches long (or 4 inches across for patty pan squash). Baby summer squash, just 1 to 2 inches long, are tender and sweet. Very large, overgrown squash may be coarse or stringy inside and have large seeds. (these could be used for soups or stews)
Choose squash that is firm and feels heavy for its size; otherwise, it may be dry and cotton-like inside. The skin should be evenly colored and slightly shiny. Check for nicks, bruises, or soft spots. The squash should look plump, not shriveled, and the stem end fresh and green.
One pound of summer squash equals:
- 2 medium-sized squash
- 3½ cups of raw slices
- 3 cups raw, grated squash
- 1½ cups cooked squash
How to Store Summer Squash
Handle gently. The skin is thin and fragile. If stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, summer squash will keep up to a week.
Types of Summer Squash
Zucchini is the most popular summer squash, but other varieties are available.
Yellow Crookneck or Straightneck has yellow skin and flesh. The skin may be smooth or bumpy.
Patty Pan or Scallop is yellow or greenish-white in color. The inside is white and juicy.
How to Use Summer Squash
Before using, wash squash well and trim the ends. Summer squash does not need to be peeled or seeded unless it is oversized and has a thick skin or large seeds.
Squash has a mild flavor. Experiment with sweet spices like allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, or try pungent flavors like basil, garlic, mustard, and rosemary.
Summer squash can be used in different ways, depending on how it is cut. Thin strips work well for a stir-fry or a raw vegetable tray. Sliced half-circles are good in soup or lasagna, or breaded and fried. Grated squash can be added to salads, slaw, spaghetti sauce, or muffins and quick bread batters. Squash and zucchini can also be processed in a spiralizer, either handheld or manual, to make vegetable noodles, often referred to as “zoodles”. Stuffed squash makes a nice dish for company. Complete instructions can be found under “To Bake.”
How to Prepare Summer Squash
To Blanch or Boil: Wash and cut squash into the desired shape. Bring about an inch of water (or enough to cover the squash) to a boil. Add the squash and bring back to a boil. Cook, uncovered, 1 to 3 minutes, depending on how you plan to use the squash.
To Barbecue: Wash squash and halve or cut into chunks. Brush the pieces with oil and place them on the grill. You can skewer pieces and add other vegetables for a kebab if you like. Cook about 3 minutes on the hottest part of the grill. To finish cooking, turn and move to a spot away from the direct heat, about 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender.
To Microwave: Wash and cut 2 medium-sized squash into ¼ inch slices. Arrange in a microwave baking dish. Add three tablespoons of water; cover. Cook at full power 4 to 7 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through. Note: Baby squash can be microwaved whole by pricking with a fork first and increasing cooking time.
To Bake: Wash and halve. Brush the cut surface lightly with margarine or oil and top with chopped onion, herbs, bread crumbs, or Parmesan cheese. If you plan to stuff the squash instead, scoop out a little of the inside and fill it with your favorite filling. Any meat, poultry, seafood, or egg ingredient should be precooked. Place in a baking pan; add a few spoonfuls of water. Bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes at 350 °F.
To Stir-Fry: Wash and cut into the desired shape. Heat 1 teaspoon oil for each cup of squash pieces. Stir-fry in hot oil 4 to 5 minutes. Keep stirring and turning the pieces so they cook quickly but don’t become soggy.
To Steam: Wash squash and cut into pieces that fit in your steaming basket. Bring an inch of water to a boil. Fill the steamer basket with squash and set over the water. Cover and steam 3 to 5 minutes. Note: Baby squash can be steamed whole but will require a longer cooking time.
To Sauté: Wash and cut into ½ in circles. Turn the heat on to a saute pan or cast iron pan add the fat of your choice i.e. butter, margarine, olive oil, bacon grease, etc. Add the squash to your pan and stir regularly. Sliced onions and spices can be added for additional flavor.
¾ lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
¾ cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (or ½ tsp. garlic powder)
1 28 oz. can tomatoes (or 3½ cups fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 16 oz. can chili or kidney beans, drained (or 2 cups, cooked from scratch)
2 cups of water
1½ Tbsps. chili powder
¾ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt, if desired
2 cups diced yellow or zucchini squash
Directions: Cook ground beef or ground turkey in a large pot over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain off fat. Add onions, carrots, green bell peppers, and garlic. Cover and cook over low heat until onion is softened, about 8 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes, beans, water, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Cook, uncovered until chili comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add squash and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes longer. Serves 8.
Calories: 210 per serving
Fat: 4 grams per serving