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Yellow Squash

Yellow Squash 101 — The Basics (REVISED)

Yellow Squash 101 – The Basics (Revised)

About Yellow Squash
Yellow squash is a member of the gourd family or Cucurbitaceae, sometimes called “cucurbits.”  Winter squashes and melons are also members of this same family. Yellow squashes are close cousins with zucchini and the two types are easily interchangeable in recipes. The seeds and skin of yellow squash are tender and fully edible. They may be eaten raw or cooked. Although they are technically a type of fruit, we usually treat them as a vegetable when preparing meals that include summer squash.

There are two common varieties of yellow squash: straightneck and crookneck. Either type can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for yellow squash. The flavors are similar, but there are some subtle differences. Straightneck yellow squash is commonly found in most grocery stores and is usually available year-round. It has thinner, smoother skin than the crookneck types. The flavor is mild and smooth.

The crookneck variety of yellow squash has a slightly thicker, bumpier skin. The end of the squash is usually larger, more bulbous than that of the straightneck variety. The flavor is slightly nuttier than that of the straightneck type. Because the skin is slightly thicker, the crookneck varieties of yellow squash may take slightly longer to cook than the straightneck types.

Summer squash is native to North America, specifically to what is now the central and southern regions of the United States. Cultivation quickly spread, and yellow squash is now available worldwide.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Yellow squash contains an array of important nutrients including the B-vitamins (especially Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, and folate), Vitamin C, Vitamin K, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, fiber and even some protein. Yellow squash is also rich in assorted phenolic compounds and carotenoids that provide many health benefits. Yellow squash is a low calorie food, with one cup having only about 20 calories.

Antioxidants. Yellow squash, especially the peel, contains numerous antioxidants, including phenolic compounds and carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and dehydroascorbic acid. These same compounds also give carrots their deep orange color. These compounds are known to help fight cancer and other chronic diseases. Since beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the body, it supports functions such as our immunity, vision and eye health, skin renewal, and arterial health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are known to protect eyes from vision loss and age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Vitamin C, another antioxidant, is also found in yellow squash. One medium yellow squash provides over half of our daily needs of this important vitamin. Vitamin C and other antioxidants help defend the body against oxidative stress and free radical damage.  Vitamin C is known to promote a stronger immune function, protect against cognitive decline, and promote a healthy respiratory system by protecting our mucous membranes, and improve joint, hair, and skin health because of its role in creating collagen.

Weight Control. Yellow squash is high in water content, low in starch, fat and calories, and contains a fair amount of fiber. This combination makes yellow squash an excellent food to include in any weight loss plan. You can eat a lot of it without consuming a lot of calories and the high water content will help to make you feel full. Also, small ones can be spiralized and used in place of noodles in many dishes, which gives it versatility when planning meals. Yellow squash can also be added to baked goods, adding moisture to the product, while allowing you to reduce the added oil and fat content.

Heart Health and Cancer. The many carotenoids in squash can help to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and also downregulate the expression of certain genes that are linked to heart disease. In the May 2016 issue of the journal Scientific Reports, researchers analyzed data from rural China collected in the 1980s and found that the more fruits and vegetables people ate, the more they were protected from heart disease, gastric cancer, and stroke. Yellow and orange squash, in particular, were linked to reduced rates of these diseases.

How to Select Yellow Squash
Choose ones that are heavy for their size, with shiny, unblemished skins (with no nicks, pits, bruises or soft spots).  Also, the skins should be tender, not tough, which would indicate they are over-mature with hard seeds and stringy flesh. The stem ends should look fresh and green. Look for small to medium-size squash, not over eight inches long. Overly large ones will be fibrous with hard seeds, and will be tough to eat.

Yellow squash is available year-round in most grocery stores. To get the freshest available, shop at your local farmer’s market from June through August, when they are in season.

How to Store Yellow Squash
Because they have a high water content, yellow squashes are subject to dehydration. So store them unwashed in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, wrapped in a damp (not wet) towel, or plastic bag in the refrigerator drawer with the air vent closed for up to one week. Since they will dehydrate quickly, being packed in a container or plastic bag will help to retain their moisture. Since they are tender, handle yellow squash with care to avoid damage, which would shorten their shelf-life.

Also, yellow squashes (and zucchinis) are sensitive to ethylene gas, so they will keep longer when stored away from ethylene-producing fruits, such as apples, avocados, peaches, melons, and pears. Avoid storing fresh squash in areas that might freeze. They should maintain quality for 5 to 7 days.

How to Prepare Yellow Squash
Wash yellow squash well under cool running water. Remove both ends, but there is no need to peel it, nor remove the seeds. There are many nutrients in the peel and it is very tender, so refrain from peeling to get the most nutritional benefit from your squash. Cut or slice it into desired size pieces and use as desired.

Yellow squash can be eaten raw or cooked, although it is likely to be cooked more often than eaten raw. They are entirely edible, which makes them easy to include in many dishes. Yellow squash may be enjoyed raw in salads, spiralized into noodles, grilled, sautéed, steamed, boiled (briefly), roasted, stir-fried, stuffed, added to casseroles, added to egg dishes, and baked into breads or muffins. It may be used interchangeably with zucchini in just about any recipe. Uses for summer squash abound and are only limited to your imagination! They are inexpensive and are a non-starchy vegetable that can be enjoyed by most people.

How to Preserve Yellow Squash
Yellow squash is best when used fresh. It may be frozen, but it will be soft when cooked, so frozen yellow squash should be cooked very briefly in as little water as possible.

Freezing Yellow Squash. To freeze yellow squash, wash and trim the ends off the squash, then cut the squash into ½-inch slices. Blanch it in boiling water for 3 minutes, then immediately cool it in ice water for 3 minutes. Drain well and pack into freezer bags or containers.

To freeze yellow squash for frying later, blanch as directed above. Before packing, dredge the blanched and cooled slices in flour or cornmeal, seasoned in whatever way you desire. Spread the coated slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze just until firm, then package in freezer bags or containers. It will be best if used within one year, but as long as the temperature has been maintained at or below 0°F, it will be safe to eat beyond that.

Dehydrating Yellow Squash. To dehydrate yellow squash, wash, and trim the ends off the squash, and cut the squash into ¼-inch slices. Blanch the sliced squash in boiling water for 1-1/2 minutes, then immediately transfer it to a bowl of ice water. Allow it to cool completely, which should happen quickly, within about 2 minutes. Drain the cooled squash slices well and spread them in single layers on your mesh dehydrator trays. Follow your dehydrator manufacturer’s instructions for the temperature and suggested length of drying time. Store them in airtight containers, preferrable vacuum sealed and with an oxygen absorber to maintain quality. Keep the containers away from heat and light, in a cool, dry place. When properly stored, dehydrated squash should last for years.

Quick Tips and Ideas for Using Yellow Squash
* Add some grated summer squash to sandwiches.

* Add sliced yellow squash to a casserole.

* To get the most nutritional benefit from your yellow squash, do not peel it. There are many nutrients in the peel of yellow squash, and it is very tender, so it’s to your advantage to leave the peel on.

* Add sliced or diced yellow squash to a stir-fry. To maintain its texture, add it toward the end of cooking.

* To healthy sauté summer squash, heat 3 tablespoons of broth (vegetable or chicken) or water in a stainless steel skillet. Once bubbles begin to form add sliced squash, cover, and stir occasionally for 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove from heat and use the squash as desired.

* Yellow squash is sensitive to ethylene gas. It’s best not to store them near apples, bananas, peaches, melons, pears, or any other ethylene-producing fruit. Storing them near these fruits will shorten the shelf life of your squash.

* Enjoy an easy to make ratatouille by sautéing summer squash, onions, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes and then simmering the mixture in tomato sauce. Season to taste.

* Slice summer squash and serve it raw with your favorite dip, hummus, or spread.

* Frozen yellow squash will become very soft once thawed. It should be cooked in a quick method that involves the least amount of water possible to maintain texture and prevent mushiness. It can be added to other foods toward the end of cooking to help keep it from getting too soft.

* Add yellow squash to your favorite pasta dish. A pasta primavera would be an excellent option for added cut yellow squash or zucchini.

* Add some raw sliced or grated yellow squash to your favorite vegetable salad.

* Add sliced yellow squash to your favorite quesadilla.

* Add sliced or diced yellow squash to a cheese soup, other soup, or your favorite stew. Add toward the end of cooking to help maintain its texture.

* Add sliced yellow squash toward the end of cooking of a vegetable chili.

* Here’s an easy and fast side-dish idea. Combine 1 can of diced tomatoes in a skillet or pot (that has a lid) with some diced onion, a little garlic powder, a pinch of dried basil leaves, and a pinch of salt (if desired). Add some sliced yellow squash (and zucchini if you have some). Stir to combine. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for up to 5 minutes, until the squash is as tender as you want. It won’t take long, since the squash cooks quickly! Remove from heat and enjoy. This is excellent over a bed of cooked rice.

* Season some lightly cooked yellow squash with a pinch of dill weed and a drizzle of lemon juice.

* Try roasting slices of yellow squash along with other favorite vegetables.

* Try adding grated yellow squash to your favorite slaw. It would especially go well with a lemon dill dressing.

* Slice yellow squash lengthwise in ½-inch increments. Lightly brush it with oil, season it your way, and cook it on the grill.

* One pound of yellow squash = about 3 medium squashes = about 3 cups sliced

* If a recipe calls for yellow squash and you don’t have any or enough available, you could substitute any variety of zucchini or pattypan squash.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Yellow Squash
Allspice, basil, capers, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, curry powder, dill, fennel seeds, garlic, ginger, Italian seasoning blends, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Yellow Squash
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds:  Bacon, beans (in general, esp. cannellini, white), chicken, eggs, roasted or grilled meat, pine nuts, seafood, sunflower seeds, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, carrots, chard (Swiss), chiles, chives, eggplant, escarole, greens (bitter, such as mustard or turnip greens), onions, scallions, shallots, tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms, root vegetables (in general)

Fruits: Lemons, olives

Grains and Grain Products: Bread crumbs, bulgur, corn, pasta, rice, wheat

Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Butter, cheese (esp. feta, goat, mozzarella, Parmesan, pecorino, provolone, ricotta, Swiss), yogurt

Other Foods: Mustard, oil (esp. olive), vinegar (esp. balsamic, cider, red wine, rice wine, white wine), zucchini blossoms

Yellow squash has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., muffins, quick breads), egg dishes such as frittatas, omelets), enchiladas, pasta dishes (such as lasagna, linguini, orzo, rigatoni), ratatouille, risotto, salads (i.e., green, pasta), soups and vegetable stock

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Yellow Squash
Add yellow squash to any of the following combinations…

Basil + Tomatoes
Cheese + Eggs + Scallions [in a frittata]
Cilantro + Escarole + Scallions
Eggs + Goat Cheese [in a frittata]
Garlic + Olive Oil
Garlic + Parsley
Lemon + Rosemary
Mint + Thyme
Pecorino Cheese + Truffles
Tomatoes + Onions

Recipe Links
Baked Parmesan Yellow Squash Rounds https://www.fivehearthome.com/baked-parmesan-yelllow-squash-rounds-recipe/

Sautéed Yellow Squash with Fresh Herbs https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sauteed-yellow-squash-fresh-herbs

100+ Ways to Use Zucchini and Yellow Squash https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/essential-ingredients/healthy-squash-zucchini-recipes

Summer Squash Casserole https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/summer-squash-casserole

Roasted Vegetable Gnocchi with Spinach-Herb Pesto https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-vegetable-gnocchi-spinach-pesto

41 Sensational Summer Squash Recipes https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/our-best-summer-squash-recipes-gallery

22 Ways to Use Up Your Yellow Squash Bumper Crop https://www.allrecipes.com/gallery/yellow-squash-recipes/

Southwest Veggie Burgers https://foodrevolution.org/recipes/southwest-veggie-burgers/


















Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.