With the flux of summer squash in everybody’s baskets (and the farm’s kitchen) this time of year, it’s good to know how to best use this vegetable and use it with variety! Summer squash, a child of the Cucurbitaceae family, was first cultivated in the Americas thousands of years ago and was a staple food crop then, as it often is now. Unlike winter squash, a child of the same family, summer squash is harvested as an immature fruit while the seeds and the outer skin have not yet hardened, and therefore does not have the long storage life of the winter squash.
These brightly and varied colored gourds brag of high nutritional value, being high in Vitamin C, a number of antioxidants, and other balancing nutrients. Not to mention some studies linking it to combating diabetes and regulating insulin levels in the body. It’s important to note most of the antioxidants in this fruit are in the skin, so when thinking about cooking your summer squash consider this important tid-bit! Additionally, while a lot of people grill, fry, boil, or (God forbid it!) microwave summer squash, steaming it or, even better, eating it raw conserves most of the nutrients in the vegetable.
A good way to try this raw is to eat it in a salad with other summer vegetables. Cucumbers, radishes, carrots, beets, and peppers are good compliments, but try experimenting with a number of different vegetables. Slice your vegetables for the salad thin and mix in your favorite vinegars, oils, herbs (basil, perhaps?), squeeze in some lemon, and a little salt and pepper, all to your taste. Here’s a recipe that a member used last year for her raw summer vegetable salad:
3-4 small summer squash
1 medium kohlrabi
1 regular bell pepper or 6 mini peppers
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste
As with anything, keep it simple! But of course, do what you like doing, make it your own, and give thanks to this beautiful (and highly nutritious) summer delight!