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Squash: Feed's All You Need Guide

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As the colder seasons fall upon us, cozying up next to the fire, staring outside at the cold winter day, and enjoying warm, hearty, and delicious meals makes this season one so many of us look forward to each year. There are so many different foods that remind us of the holiday season, including that of the squash family! From pumpkins to butternut squash, this family of fruits screams wintertime with its health benefits keeping our bodies healthy during the holiday season. If you’re interested in learning more about squash, the wide varieties available, and the inspiration for incorporating this fruit into your diet, this guide is for you! For today’s Pop, All You Need Guide, join us as we explore all things squash! 

History of Squash

As we dive into the world of squash, it’s essential to understand where they originated from. According to WCIA, squash originated in the New World and extended from the U.S. to Argentina! In fact, Mexico has the most extensive diversity of species of squash, and it is estimated that squash originated within the region. While indigenous groups throughout the Americas long enjoyed this plentiful fruit, the first known use of squash in Europe didn’t occur until the 16th century! Squash itself is very easy to grow, and the seeds are easily cultivated and stored for future use, so with time, this fruit continued to grow in popularity. Given the ability to easily breed varieties as well, new squash varieties continued to develop, providing us with a plentiful selection to enjoy today.

Fun Facts about Squash

  1. According to AgHires, the United States imports more squash than any other country! On average, about 300,000 millitons of squash are imported each year.
  2. While we may think of squash as a vegetable, it is a fruit thanks to its ability to flower and produce seeds!
  3. Additionally, the smaller the squash, the more flavor it has! Who would’ve thought?

Different Types of Squash, Their Health Benefits, and How to Prepare Them

Before diving into the details of how healthy squash is or even how to prepare these fruits, it’s essential to look at all the different squash types available at your local farmers market or grocery store. First and foremost, it’s important to note that there are two different categories of squash: winter squash and summer squash. So what’s the distinction between each? According to Countryside Food and Farms, summer squash is a soft-skinned fruit with a more tender and moist inside. This squash is perfect for grilling, making it a delicious summer treat! On the other hand, winter squash is much harder outside, which lasts a long time during the cold months. Additionally, it is noted that the seeds of winter squash are larger and more difficult to eat, unlike its counterpart.

So, now that we have clarified the difference between each squash type, let’s look at the varieties that fall into each category. These are only a few of the hundreds of varieties of squash available, but they most likely are the most popular ones that are widely available for purchase. Some different squash types include 

Summer squash types: 

Crookneck - Crookneck squash is a medium-sized squash with smooth yellow skin and soft, edible seeds. It has a mild flavor with notes of pepper and nuts, similar to zucchini. This fruit is also quite healthy and full of nutrients, including carotenoids that act as antioxidants and reduce the chance of diseases and chronic illnesses.

There are a number of ways to prepare crookneck squash, depending on the culture you live in and the spices you enjoy. You can simply steam or sautee this fruit and add some salt and pepper, peel it into thin slices and use it in place of pasta for a low-carb option, prepare a lovely squash soup, and so much more. If you’re interested in exploring the world of the yellow crookneck squash, try this vegan and gluten-free friendly roasted crookneck squash, this crookneck squash frittata, or this yellow squash casserole.

Pattypan - Pattypan, another summer squash variety, is a sweet, dense, saucer-shaped fruit with edible skin and seeds. This squash is likely found in farmer's markets during the July and August months and is very easy to prepare, similar to zucchini! There are also numerous health benefits to pattypan squash, making it a delicious way to incorporate more nutrients into your diet during the summer months! For example, this fruit is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, and fiber, helping to keep your body healthy and reduce both the risk of colon cancer and dietary cholesterol! Additionally, pattypan squash is perfect for those on a low-sodium diet, given its low levels of calories, sodium, cholesterol, and fat.

There are a variety of ways to prepare this not so well known squash! Many of the squash varieties we’re exploring today can be prepared the same way, whether grilling, blending for soups, sauteeing, blanching, or having it baked! If you’re interested in trying pattypan squash, we recommend this roasted patty pan squash recipe or garlic-herb pattypan squash.

Straightneck - Another delicious summer squash variety is the straight-neck squash. It is characterized by a straight, yellow body with glossy skin and makes for an easy-to-grill option! Like other squash, it contains carotenoids and lutein, helping protect against damage from free radical build-up in the body.

There are so many different ways to prepare straight-neck squash; the possibilities are endless! You can cut it thin and use it in lasagna, eat it raw in a salad, enjoy it steamed or roasted, or even enjoy it stuffed with meats, cheeses, and other vegetables! If you’re looking for delicious recipes to get you started with straight-neck squash, try these: this baked parmesan yellow squash recipe or this lemon and olive oil roasted yellow squash recipe!

Winter squash types:

Acorn - Acorn squash, a part of the winter squash family, is often one you will see during the fall and winter seasons. This fruit has drier flesh and hard-to-cut outer skin, allowing it to be stored for the long winter months without spoiling. This squash can be grown all over the U.S., but most large commercial crops hail from Michigan, New York, and California! This squash has a mildly sweet flavor but is noted as a bit dry, making it an excellent option for roasts, stews, or baked goods. This variety of squash doesn’t provide as much nutritional value as its cousins but is still a great source of dietary fiber, helping to support colon health and lower cholesterol. Additionally, acorn squash contains vitamin C, B6, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, helping support your daily nutritional needs.

There are various ways to prepare this squash, with most preparations requesting it to be cooked with the skin on. Whether you’re in the mood for a delicious warm acorn squash soup or are a fan of eating it baked or roasted, acorn squash is the perfect winter squash to try this holiday season. Here are some delicious recipes to help get you started: this delicious baked acorn squash with brown sugar and butter, this herb-roasted acorn squash with parmesan, or this stuffed acorn squash!

Butternut - One of the most well-known squash varieties, butternut squash is a delicious and widely-used fruit for various dishes. Commonly used during the winter, these fruits are harvested in the late summer and fall but are easily stored for a long time, so they will likely be available throughout the year. Since the seeds are much harder than summer squash, you’ll have to remove them as they aren’t edible. Butternut squash provides plenty of health benefits, making it a great choice to enjoy during the cold winter! For instance, butternut squash can provide 298% of your Daily Vitamin A need, helping to protect your vision and support healthy cells in your body. This fruit also contains significant amounts of both Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, working as antioxidants to fight free radicals and support protein metabolism and blood cell formation. 

Butternut squash is extremely versatile, perfect for roasting, pureeing for soups, or even creating dishes like mac and cheese or tacos! If you’re looking for inspiration for what to make this fall and winter season, butternut squash is an easy-to-find and easy-to-prepare option. Try these recipes: this cinnamon roasted butternut squash recipe, this roasted butternut squash soup recipe, or this squash and radicchio salad with pecans!

While each of the varieties of squash we mentioned above can be prepared differently, there is also quite a bit of crossover that makes this fruit extremely versatile. As we noted, many of these can be enjoyed as soup, in place of meat or poultry, or a nice addition to your daily fruits and vegetables to help you receive the nutrients your body needs. Additionally, squash is an easy plant to grow in your home garden if you've got a green thumb! Learn more about growing squash at home here.

All in all, squash is a delicious yet underrated fruit that can be enjoyed in an infinite variety of ways. Whether you’re enjoying this fruit in the summertime or find yourself preparing this more in the winter, incorporating squash into your diet can help you and your family achieve the nutrients to protect your health better.

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