Squash 101

October 07, 2013

The pumpkin patches are full, and the seasons are changing - find out what's so great about squash here

Festive and flavorful, a single serving of delectable orange squash is chock full of vitamin A and potassium. A staple in the diets of Native Americans long before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, squash, pumpkins and other gourds have come to signify the arrival of the fall harvest and bounty. Currently the pumpkin patches are full of bright orange festive squash.

Squash are believed to have been first cultivated in Mesoamerica. Some seeds from related plants date back to 5000 B.C. when Spanish and Portuguese explorers carried the seeds back to Europe. Squash includes both winter and summer varieties, some examples include, zucchini from the summer and butternut, buttercup, acorn, pumpkin and kabocha from winter.

Although the squash is botanically classified as a fruit, many consider it a vegetable for culinary purposes. It is often served as a side dish, and is popular in soups, breads and pies. The carotenoids (including lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin) that give many squash their signature orange color are powerful antioxidants that protect health, especially during cold and flu season. As well as having a good amount of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, manganese and folate, they are also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and copper.

Squash is mostly composed of starchy carbohydrates but an increasing number of studies now show that the starch-related components have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties.

Now let’s get to the seeds! Subtly sweet and nutty with a malleable, chewy texture, the roasted seeds from inside are one of the most nutritious and flavorful seeds around – especially from pumpkin. While pumpkin seeds are available year round, they are the freshest in the fall when pumpkins are in season. They are also known as pepitas, and are a good source of iron, zinc and essential fatty acids. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk, although some varieties produce seeds without shells. Seeds should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. While they may stay edible for several months, they seem to lose their peak freshness after about one to two months.

Most varieties of squash start out green and turn orange when ripe but some are actually ripe when green. When choosing for cooking or baking, look for fruits that are heavy for their size with a hard shell.

SupermarketGuru hopes you enjoy both the savory and sweet, as well as experiment with a squash you’ve never tried today.