Summer Squash

Latin name: Cucurbita pepo (Also includes some varieties of winter squash)

What is Summer Squash?
Summer squash are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, making them relatives of both the melon and the cucumber. Technically fruits, summer squash are considered vegetables in terms of culinary usage. Summer squash are usually cylindrical in shape, but can also be round and are usually green or yellow in color. Commonly eaten varieties include pattypan, zucchini (courgette), and yellow crookneck squash.

Summer squash are picked when they are immature vine fruits, which if allowed to grow, would become enormous in size and lose the fresh, delicate sweetness that makes them so popular to eat. Because they are picked in an immature state, every part is edible—seeds, skin, and flesh. They do not develop a hard rind like winter squash and, correspondingly, they do not have a long shelf life.

Since ancient times, summer squash, along with maize and corn, have been a mainstay of the Native American and Mexican diet. The squash we know today originated from an early squash variety that is nearly 10,000 years old; this squash was used only for its seeds, as the flesh was too bitter for eating. Over time, squash cultivation in the Americas produced a more palatable, fleshy squash. Spanish explorers brought squash back to Europe from the New World.

What are the health benefits of Summer Squash?
Considered cooling in nature, squash is used by traditional Chinese medicine to detoxify, quench thirst, relieve irritability, alleviate skin lesions, remedy urination difficulty, treat edema, and alleviate summer heat discomfort.

Summer squash is packed with manganese and vitamin C. It is also a good source of magnesium, vitamin A (notably through its concentration of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene), dietary fiber, potassium, copper, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc, protein, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and B9 (folate).

The nutrients in summer squash are useful for the atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, colon cancer, and overall reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that make them helpful for conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Where can I find Summer Squash?
Summer Squash can be found in grocery stores and outdoor markets in the summer.

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This entry was posted in Foods, Natural Health Dictionary.