Squash: A humble nutrient powerhouse

Squash comes in many varieties and offers a robust portfolio of nutritional benefits and versatile culinary applications – like spaghetti squash.

Squash is indigenous to north America, making it an ideal native plant to cultivate in a home garden and, even if you buy it in a store, there is a decent chance it was grown locally- which is better for the environment and nutrition quality (freshness). Here are some of the different kinds of squash commonly grown in North America:

Acorn Squash to illustrate a native plant in north america and its cooking applications

Summer Squash:

  • Zucchini: Perhaps the most well-known summer squash, zucchini has a mild flavor and tender skin. It’s often used in salads, stir-fries, and baked goods.
  • Yellow Squash: These squash have a similar taste and texture to zucchini but are typically yellow in color. They can be used interchangeably in recipes.
  • Cousa Squash: Also known as Middle Eastern zucchini, cousa squash is light green and often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

Winter Squash

  • Butternut Squash: Known for its sweet, nutty flavor and smooth texture, butternut squash is a favorite for soups, roasting, and purees. Check out this great video tutorial on how to roast butternut squash
  • Acorn Squash: This squash is shaped like an acorn and has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It’s commonly stuffed and baked.
  • Spaghetti Squash: When cooked, the flesh of spaghetti squash forms strands that resemble spaghetti
  • Hubbard Squash: Hubbard squash comes in various colors and has a sweet, rich flavor. It’s ideal for baking and mashing.
  • Pumpkin: While pumpkins are often associated with Halloween, they are also used in cooking. Pumpkin puree is used in pies, soups, and other dishes.
  • Delicata Squash: Delicata squash has a thin, edible skin and a sweet flavor. It’s often sliced and roasted.
  • Kabocha Squash: Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, has a sweet, dense flesh and is used in a variety of dishes, including soups and tempura.
  • A word on Gourds:
  • Ornamental gourds are often grown for decoration and come in various shapes and colors. They are not typically eaten.
  • These are just a few examples of the many squash varieties found in North America. Each type of squash has its own unique flavor and texture, making them suitable for a wide range of culinary applications, from soups and stews to pies and side dishes, sauces, and as an addition to smoothie or muffin recipes

Nutrition Breakdown of Squash

Squash is a good source of dietary fiber and the vibrant orange and yellow varieties, such as butternut and acorn squash, are rich in beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A. This vitamin is crucial for maintaining healthy vision, skin, and a robust immune system.

Squash also provides vitamins C and B6, as well as essential minerals like potassium and magnesium and even calcium. These nutrients contribute to overall health, regulating blood pressure, supporting heart health, and aiding in nerve function.

Furthermore, its seeds are nutrient-rich and can be roasted for a crunchy and nutritious snack. These seeds are a good source of protein, healthy fats, and minerals like zinc and iron.

How to Use Squash in Cooking and Recipes

The culinary applications of squash are boundless. It can be roasted, sautéed, steamed, or pureed to create a wide range of dishes. Roasted butternut squash, for instance, caramelizes beautifully in the oven, developing a sweet and nutty flavor profile. It can be mashed and used in soups, stews, or as a side dish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs.
Spaghetti squash, when cooked, transforms into tender, noodle-like strands like spaghetti. Top it with marinara sauce, pesto, or sautéed vegetables for a healthy and satisfying meal.
Squash can also be incorporated into salads, quiches, and even dessert like mousse, puddings, parfaits, cakes and pies- just think of the rockstar that pumpkin pie is.

Squash is a versatile and nutritionally dense vegetable that can enhance both the flavor and health benefits of a wide range of dishes. Its vibrant colors and rich flavors make it a must-have ingredient in any kitchen, offering a delightful culinary experience while nourishing the body. And, being a native plant to North America, it is relatively easy to grow.

Challenge yourself to explore this food. Go get a squash and experiment cooking with it using an appliance you currently have (stove, oven, microwave, insta-pot, etc.) Have it by itself or experiment with adding it to a meal you’re already making this week for a fun twist. Check out this easy how-to recipe for spaghetti squash:

If you’re interested in learning more about cooking and culinary skills and prepare foods to be both healthy AND delicious, check out our membership club here. And if you’d like to receive more support with healthy eating, living, and balance, subscribe to our email newsletter here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top