Summer Squash

Summer in Ontario and the summer squash is at it’s most beautiful best. There are two seasons of squash, summer and winter. The summer squash’s tend to be softer and more succulent. This is due to the fact that summer squash has edible skin, soft seeds and tends to carry more water than winter squash. It is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C and quite a good source of magnesium, potassium, copper, folate, vitamin K, phosphorus and vitamin A.

Summer squash carries fairly high levels of antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. It is helpful for bone health, heart health and is great for weight control.
The vitamin C in these squash’s helps to protect against LDL cholesterol being oxidized. This is the way that LDL cholesterol is dangerous is if it is oxidized. If it is not then it is harmless. Vitamin C also helps keep blood vessels relaxed. The magnesium and potassium in them helps to keep blood pressure normal.

Since summer squash only has 36 calories per cup and lots of fiber it is a great way to fill up, get your daily dose of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants while remaining slim or helping to fill you up on a weight loss program.

You can keep this squash in your refrigerator for about 10 days. Do not wash it before putting in the fridge and wrap up tightly or put in a Fridge Smart from Tupperware.

Choosing good summer squash is as simple as picking the heaviest ones that have full color and are firm to the touch. The rinds should be shiny and unblemished. We see giant zucchini’s today and yet these are not ideal. They are often woody and their rind is hard compared to their smaller peers. They also don’t have the same quality of nutrition as smaller summer squash. Don’t choose them too small though either or they will be immature and not as sweet. The patty pan squash is a smaller variety and it has a sweeter taste than zucchini. As always, I recommend organic varieties for the highest nutrition content and no chemicals. Sometimes organic vegetables have more blemishes and holes than conventional and this is a small price to pay for the reduction in toxic load that pesticides and herbicides in conventional produce burden us with.

I always recommend eating vegetables raw in summer but if you want to cook summer squash do it with minimal water and for a short time. They will get water logged if you use too much water so just stir fry them in a little bit of pure water until they are tender crisp for the best results.

There are a number of varieties of summer squash all having in common skin that is edible. Don’t peel the skin off these squash. Most of the carotenoids are in the skin and these are powerful antioxidants. Also the skin is a very good source of fiber. The most common we see in our CSA baskets are zucchini, crookneck, straight neck and pattypan. Most people are familiar with zucchini and its uses in muffins and eaten as a dipping vegetable. Did you know that you can use it in cakes as well? Just leave out the oil that you would use in an organic cake mix and grate zucchini into the cake mix until it mixes and looks the same consistence that your cake mix usually looks when you add the oil. Then put it either in a Saladmaster pan on top of the stove or in your oven to cook. This is a great way to enjoy the added fiber and nutrients of a vegetable for dessert!

The Worlds Healthiest Foods (page 187) has some good ideas from around the world for using summer squash. In Italy it is stuffed with grated cheese, tuna and tomato or with mushrooms an parmesan cheese. In Greece it is stuffed with a mixture of garlic, raisins, mint and dill. In Turkey it is stuffed with a mixture of rice, raisins, mint and dill.

For an easy vegetable at dinner time you can cut summer squash into ½ pieces, rubbed with olive oil and spices of your choice and barbecued along with your meat.

All summer squashes make good dipping sticks for dips and hummus. Here is a dip recipe that my family enjoys.

1 cup low fat Hellmans Mayo (these days I prefer to make my own mayo or buy the one from Wilderness Family Naturals available at Fiddleheads on Bruce Street in Kitchener or numerous places online)
1 cup low fat sour cream (use live yogurt for a healthier dip)
3 tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. sea salt

Mix althogether and refrigerate. Keeps about a week.

Here is my favorite hummus recipe for dipping not only summer squash but all your other summer vegetables.

Herbed Hummus Dip

1 can (19 oz.) chickpeas drained and rinsed (I prefer to soak and cook my own chickpeas but if you buy canned buy organic)
3 tbsp. lemon juice and water (I use fresh squeezed lemon juice and no water)
2 tbsp. light mayonnaise (use plain live culture yogurt for added nutrition)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. dried dillweed, salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced (or more if you are a real garlic fanatic like I am or if you are doing a parasite cleanse)
1 green onion chopped
2 tbsp. fresh parsley (optional but recommended) (PS: parsley is a natural breath freshener which is a real bonus with this recipe!)

In food processor, blend chickpeas, lemon juice, water, mayo, oil, dillweed, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in garlic, green onion an parsley.

Refrigerate up to 3 days. Makes 2 cups.
1 tbsp. = 23 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram total fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 0 mg. cholesterol and 60 mg. sodium.

If you have a Magic Bullet or a good food processor, just put everything in at once and blend away. I have a Vita Mix and it’s as simple as put the ingredients in and blend it up until smooth. Yummy!

Stir Fried Summer Squash

Cut any type of summer squash into about 1” cubes. Add about 1/8 cup of either chicken or vegetable broth to the bottom of a frying pan and bring to a boil. Add the squash along with ½ cup onion and 1 clove of garlic minced. Stir fry for a few minutes until the squash is tender crisp. If there is any liquid left in the pan, drain it off and add 2 or 3 tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar (or apple cider or lemon juice depending on the flavors you like) and some fresh herbs such as lemon thyme or parsley or dill or rosemary or basil or oregano. Be creative and find a mixture of herbs you like. Serve hot over a bed of rice or as a side dish with a meat meal.

Other variations for this are to add a few olives after it is off the stove along with some red pepper and then use Italian herbs or an Italian herbal mix and some Parmesan cheese.

Margo McIntosh, RHN, RNCP


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