Squashes: Summer and Winter Varieties
A member of the gourd family, the squash—both summer and winter varieties—are nutrient-dense vegetables that can grace the cookpot all year long. Most varieties are easy for home gardeners to raise, though the winter squash plants spread lavishly and require more land than the average suburban dweller may wish to dedicate to growing squash.
Best in late fall to early winter, the robust winter squash grows in numerous round to oval to pear shapes, with skin colors that range from white to orange to very dark green. Winter squashes include the buttercup, butternut, acorn, and pumpkin varieties.
Because their outer skin is hard, it is inedible, and you need to cut through it to reach the inner cavity, with its flesh, fibers, and seeds; you need to scrape out the fiber and seeds. You can bake these squashes whole and cut them up after baking, cut them into sections and cook the sections, or peel off the skin and cut up the flesh into chunks for adding to stews and soups or to roast for other dishes.
Both summer and winter squash offer certain health benefits that may make them good disease fighters: with their light- to deep-orange flesh, winter squash are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and potassium. Summer squash contain respectable amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and riboflavin.
Although most of these squashes are available throughout the year, they are vine-ripe and ready locally—in cooler climates—by early to midsummer. Summer squashes include the light and darker yellow varieties, zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck.
Because each has an easy-to-slice skin and soft interior, the many summer squash varieties make fine additions to any type of dish, even breads and desserts in the case of zucchini, and they adapt themselves to many different cooking styles.