Q: What is the difference between summer and winter squash? Do you use the same cooking methods?
A: Both summer and winter squash belong to the gourd family.
While there are similarities between summer and winter squash, there are many differences that include harvest time, physical characteristics, methods of storage and preparation.
At top shows a variety of summer and winter squash. Both the summer and winter squash belong to the gourd family. And while there are similarities between the summer and winter squash, there are many differences, including harvest time and other things.
All varieties of summer and winter squash are related to the cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon.
They are very nutritious and packed with nutrients at a low calorie "cost."
Let's take a look at the differences between summer and winter squash.
Available in many varieties that have a distinct shape, color, flavor and size. Popular varieties of summer squash include zucchini and yellow crookneck, straightneck, pattypan and yellow zucchini.
All parts are edible including the skin, flesh and seeds. In some cases the flowers are edible.
Their flesh is moister and they are more delicate than winter squash. They have a mild flavor and a much shorter cooking time than winter squash.
Summer squash is an excellent source of copper and manganese.
It is a very good source of vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin K.
It is a good source of vitamin B1, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, choline and protein.
Their season is from early to late summer, although they often are available year round.
Choose squash that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds.
The rinds should not be too hard. Over mature squash have hard rinds and their flesh is stringy and the seeds are hard.
Summer squash doesn't keep long. It should be refrigerated whole for no more than a week or two at the most. Tightly covered cut squash will keep several days in the refrigerator.
To prepare summer squash wash under cool running water. Cut off both ends and cut into the desired shape for your recipe.
Summer squash is delicious raw, steamed, baked, roasted, pan fried, deep fried or grilled. They can be used as an ingredient in soups, stir-fries, pilafs, pasta dishes, breads and casseroles.
Like summer squash, it is available in many varieties with different shapes, colors, flavors and sizes. Popular winter varieties include butternut, acorn, hubbard, turban, spaghetti, buttercup and winter crookneck.
The flesh is deep yellow to orange and is firmer and drier than summer squash. It is mildly sweet.
They contain seeds within hollow inner cavities. The rind is quite tough and difficult to pierce. Because of the thick rind, winter squash can be stored for up to several months depending on the particular squash and storage conditions. The rind is not edible.
Winter squash is also very nutritious.
It contains carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.
They contain anti-inflammatory properties. Winter squash is a very good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, and copper. It is a good source of potassium, vitamin B2, folate, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and niacin.
Winter squashes are best from October to November when they are in season but they are usually available year round in the grocery store.
Choose squash that are heavy for their size. The rind should be deep colored and without blemishes. Avoid ones with wet, soft or moldy looking spots on the rind. Stems on winter squash help them retain moisture so choose one with a stem if possible.
Store in a cool dry place away from direct light. Ideal temperature for storage is between 50 and 60 degrees. Cut winter squash will keep a day or two in the refrigerator if it is wrapped in plastic.
To prepare winter squash rinse under cool running water before cutting. Cut off the ends and cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds.
Peel the squash if you plan to cut it into smaller pieces for steaming or as an ingredient in a recipe. Squash can also be baked in the skin and peeled after it is cooked.
Winter squash can be baked, roasted, steamed, simmered, grilled and used as an ingredient in soups, pilafs, desserts, breads and casseroles.
Following are four of my favorite squash recipes. They are easy to prepare and delicious:
Butternut roasted squash
1 butternut squash
Orange mango passion fruit balsamic vinegar
Peel butternut squash and cut into 1 inch pieces. Sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Roast on a sheet tray at 400 degrees about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Drizzle with orange mango passion fruit balsamic vinegar.
1 quart chicken
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cups shredded zucchini and summer squash (one large zucchini and one large summer squash)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute celery, carrots and onions until they are transparent. Add chicken broth and simmer. Mix together shredded squash, parmesan cheese, whipped eggs, salt and pepper. Bring chicken broth to a boil. Spoon zucchini mixture into broth.
Baked acorn squash
1 acorn squash
Cut one acorn squash in half. Sprinkle with allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Drizzle with honey to sweeten to taste. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until fork tender.
1 spaghetti squash
Marinara or spaghetti sauce
Cut one medium spaghetti squash in half. Pierce the skin several times with a fork. Place in a microwave safe dish and cook on high for 8 to 12 minutes. Pull flesh away from cavity with a fork. Serve with your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce.