Summer squash belongs to the group of squashes that is harvested when it is immature. In other words, it is harvested while the rind is still tender and edible. The fruit is small in size and can be eaten with little or no cooking. It hails from the family of Cucurbitaceae and shares some similarity with melon and cucumber. Though widely available throughout the year, its main growing season is the summer months between May and July. Summer squash comes in different varieties, all of which share some common characteristics. Some of the widely known varieties of summer squash are Zucchini, Crookneck and Straightneck Squash and Pattypan Squash. Whole of the vegetable is edible, including its flesh, seeds and skin. In certain varieties, even the flowers are edible.
Summer squash is more fragile in comparison to the winter squash and thus can be stored only for short time period. It originally grew as a wild plant in the area between Gautemala and Mexico. It has been more than 10,000 years since the fruit is being eaten by people. Earlier, it was eaten primarily for its seeds, as it contained less of flesh, which generally tasted bitter. Now, the whole of the fruit is consumed. With the passage of time, summer squash came to be cultivated extensively all around America. Christopher Columbus brought it back to Europe. Consequently, the Portuguese and Spanish explorers brought the cultivation of summer squash to different corners of the world. Today, the leading commercial producers of the squash are China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.
Health Benefits Of Eating Summer Squash
- Summer squash juice prevents the cell mutations, which are the changes accompanying cancer. In other words, it is highly helpful in fighting cancer.
- The squash helps in reducing the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) in men. BPH is the condition associated with enlargement of prostate gland in men, which hampers their urinary and sexual function. The fruit is more effective when taken in combination with other phytonutrient-containing foods.
- It is rich in various nutrients, like manganese, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, fiber, potassium, folate, phosphorous, riboflavin and copper. Many of these nutrients prove extremely helpful in preventing atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
- The magnesium present in summer squash helps in reducing high blood pressure. Its folate helps in breaking homocysteine that, if it goes to a high level, can cause heart attack and stroke risk.
- The Vitamin C and beta-carotene present in summer squash prevent oxidation of cholesterol. These nutrients have anti-inflammatory properties, which make them helpful in fighting diseases like asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They, along with the folate, also protect the body cells from those chemicals that cause colon cancer.
- The fiber content in summer squash helps in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. It also keeps the cancer causing toxins away from the colon cells.
- The copper present in summer squash helps in reducing the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Summer squash contains high water content, which prevents dehydration. Thus, the fruit is popularly consumed in summers.
- The carotene element present in summer squash helps protect the body against the damaging effect of sun.
- Summer squash contains a small quantity of oxalates, which crystallizes in body fluids, when accumulated in concentrated form. Because of this, people with existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid having summer squash.
- The oxalates present in summer squash can hinder hamper the absorption of calcium by the body. However, this interference is too small in quantity and can conveniently be covered by the ability of oxalate-containing foods to provide calcium to the meal plan.
- Before using summer squash, wash it properly with cold water. Cut off both the ends and then cut it into slices of your desired size and shape.
- You can use summer squash in a variety of ways, say for garnishing your salads and sandwiches. You can also make ratatouille by sautéing summer squash with other ingredients, like onion, bell pepper, eggplant and tomato. Simmer the mixture in tomato sauce. You can also serve it raw with your favourite dips.