Seasonal Eats: Summer Squash
Here at Augusta, we love to showcase a variety of foods that nourish your body and keep it working at its highest caliber. This week, we are excited to share with you the curious history and major benefits of the summer squash.
Originally domesticated in Mexico and Central America, the summer squash has quite the long history. In fact, scientists found preserved seeds in a 10,000 year old cave in Mexico. Nothing like some old squash seeds for an afternoon snack, right?
All jokes aside, the squash holds a treasured place on the food pyramid. Native Americans even named it as one of the “three sisters” which also included corn (maize) and beans. While considered a veggie in many circles, summer squash is a member of the melon and cucumber family, which are all technically classified as fruits.
In the United States, there are three varieties of summer squash that you’ll find in the produce section:
- Zucchini: can occasionally be a yellow color, but most commonly found in groceries stores in a medium green
- Crookneck & Straightneck: both are a pale yellow color, and the crookneck squash usually flaunts a slightly curved, almost swanlike neck.
- Scallop: also known as a pattypan squash, this variety can be found in many different colors such as pale yellow, golden yellow, and medium green
The nutritional value of summer squash is about as rich as its history. Here are a few ways it benefits your body:
- The summer squash is full of nutritious antioxidants such as alpha and beta carotene which help you see, just like carrots! These antioxidants will also keep your immune system healthy. The skin is particularly rich in these antioxidants so be sure to keep it on when cooking.
- B-complex vitamins and minerals such as zinc and magnesium also contribute to your body’s blood sugar regulation.
- Although there is fat found in squash, most of it is classified as omega 3 fats and found in the seeds. Omega 3 fatty acids can act as an anti-inflammatory for your body.
- The oil from the seeds of summer squash is believed to provide antimicrobial protection, and protect from disease, fungi and parasites.
- The combination of magnesium and potassium provide protection against cardiovascular problems by relaxing blood vessels and arteries, allowing blood to flow to the heart with more ease.
If you want to experience all that the summer squash has to offer, it’s important to cook it in a way that retains those minerals and vitamins. There are a few ways this is possible, but one of our favorites is to sauté the squash.
Start your journey in the produce section, by picking a squash that doesn’t have too many blemishes or bruises on its rind. Also be sure that it’s not too hard. As far as size goes, if you take the biggest one it may be a bit fibrous, but the small ones may not have the flavor you’re looking for. Try to find a happy medium that will fit all of the qualifications.
Now it’s time to start cooking. Place vegetable broth, chicken broth or water in a skillet. As it heats up, add your sliced squash and cover to allow it to steam. Go ahead and cook about one and a half minutes on both sides. When your squash is done cooking, season to your preference. Don’t overdo it though; squash has a great flavor on its own and sometimes salt, pepper and butter might be all you need.
Whether it’s green or yellow, your body is benefitting from this bountiful source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Augusta encourages you to make summer squash a part of your diet this season.