When you choose to eat seasonally, grocery shopping becomes an exciting adventure, and cooking a sort of puzzle to solve. With each passing season, new ingredients appear at your local farmers market, just begging for new and exciting recipes to prepare -- and summer squash recipes are no exception.
Summer squash is one ingredient that we wait for all year long, only to arrive with such abundance that we can easily grow tired of it after a bit. In fact, it’s not uncommon in regions where people grow summer squash in their gardens to wake up to a “gift” of far too much summer squash on their porches, gifted from a neighbor.
But even after two or three months of eating summer squash, it’s easy to stay excited about it. After all, there are so many summer squash recipes to enjoy from all over the world, each of which plays up the distinct benefits of this slightly sweet summer vegetable.
5 Reasons to Choose Seasonal Summer Squash
While in most places, you can find zucchini all year – and apples, strawberries, and oranges, for that matter – that doesn’t mean you should be eating them in February. Waiting until the height of seasonality to take full advantage of your favorite summer squash recipes boasts several distinct benefits.
1. It’s healthier.
Seasonally-grown produce exhibits the natural nutrients that out-of-season produce sometimes neglect to fully display. Some studies have shown that crops can have up to three times more nutrients when grown in season. And when you purchase seasonal, local produce, it gets to you faster, making it fresher and healthier.
2. It’s cheaper.
When you buy locally and seasonally, you don’t have to pay the uptick in prices that come from costly hothouses and transport from warmer climates. Instead, you pay the right price for local produce -- what could be better?
3. You avoid ingredient boredom.
It may be convenient to get strawberries all year long, but there’s nothing like waiting until May, when the first true seasonal strawberries arrive, and eating your fill until they fade out of season in August. It seems nature gives us just what we crave before taking seasonal produce away, so that we can wait until the following year to eat it again.
Vegetarian cooking instructor Terresa Murphy, of La Cucina di Terresa, says that she never gets sick of zucchini. “Because I only eat them when they are well in season—from mid-July through the end of September, I take great care to enjoy them while they are present,” she says.
When summer squash appears, you can eat your fill, and then bide your time with other vegetables, like winter squash, until zucchini come back into season the following year.
4. You support local farmers.
Eating seasonally supports local farmers. With an enthusiastic market for seasonal, local produce, farmers can get back to working the land the way that Mother Nature intended, secure in the knowledge that there will be people ready and waiting to pick up all of those huge crops of zucchini through the summer months to enjoy in their favorite summer squash recipes.
5. It’s more delicious!
Local, seasonal produce is the freshest you can find. It’s no wonder that it’s far more delicious than greenhouse-grown varieties that you find out of season.
5 Kitchen Tips and Tricks for Cooking Summer Squash
We've got a host of delicious summer squash recipes just waiting for you to try, but if you’d rather strike out on your own and experiment in the kitchen, here are 5 of our top tips to get you started.
1. If summer squash has large seeds, remove them.
Smaller summer squash will have seeds so tiny you can hardly see them, but as they grow, the seeds grow as well, lending bitterness and an unfortunate texture to your recipes. In this case, scrape them out, as you would with winter squash, before continuing with your recipe.
2. Remove excess water if eating zucchini raw.
Like cucumber, zucchini contains a lot of excess liquid. If you’re preparing zucchini raw in a salad or a spiralized zucchini dish, consider seasoning with salt and draining it slightly before tossing it with the other ingredients to avoid adding excess liquid to your dish.
3. Zucchini and mint are a match made in heaven.
Zucchini and mint go wonderfully together, as evidenced by the host of Greek recipes featuring this pairing. Feta makes a merry third.
4. Zucchini disappears when grated.
You probably remember this from Mom's banana bread, but zucchini melts down quite quickly when grated. In this form, zucchini adds moisture to cakes and baked goods, but also to pasta sauces. You can even stir it into cooked rice to make it creamy like risotto.
5. Zucchini likes the cold.
Even though it’s a summer vegetable, zucchini is best stored in the crisper until ready to use.
Zucchini image via Shutterstock
All About Zucchini -- and 5 Delicious Zucchini Recipes
Zucchini, also called courgette, is probably the most common summer squash, with its deep green skin guarding a creamy interior. Its peak season begins in late June and continues through September.
Zucchini boast several health benefits:
- They help with weight control given their very low calorie and high fiber content.
- Zucchini are an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C.
- They contain vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper, phosphorous, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Zucchini are easy to find; you’ll be able to purchase them easily at any grocery store. Vegetarian cooking teacher Terresa Murphy offers her guide to purchasing these summer squash.
“The skin should be tight and shiny – not waxed shiny – and it should be firm to the gentle squeeze,” she says. “Where the stem was cut, it should be lightly – if at all – discolored.”
Zucchini are very inexpensive, particularly when purchased in-season. Organic, in-season zucchini costs less than $3 a pound.
Here are just a few of our favorite ways to use zucchini.
1. Stuffed Ginormous Zucchini
Murphy loves getting her zucchini inspiration from Italian cuisine, which she feels keeps their innate nature best intact. While her absolute favorite way to cook them is to just slightly roast them in the oven and then season with salt, oil, mint, and Parmesan, when she stumbles upon some of the late-season zucchini, which tends to be larger, she stuffs them.
To do this, she takes 1 massive zucchini (at least 2 pounds) and stuffs it with fresh, summer tomatoes, rainbow chard, chickpeas, garlic, lemon, wild fennel seed, red pepper flakes, parmesan, chopped hazelnuts, and olive oil. Baked in the oven, it's a delicious vegetarian main dish.
2. Zucchini Fritelle
Chef Claudia Cabri of Paris' Miss Lunch offers a different option, one that she discovered on the island of Pantelleria, where summer squash grow in the volcanic earth. While at the beginning of the summer, the locals simply boil them and serve them with lemon and oil, they later make frittelle with them. These thin pancakes are made by pureeing the cooked squash with eggs, a little flour, some pepperoncino, pepper, salt, and the secret ingredients: cinnamon and a little bit of nutmeg, which hail from the Arab influence of the island. This thin batter is then fried in a touch of oil for crêpe-like pancakes you can serve with just a squeeze of lemon juice.
Casserole with zucchini and cheese in a baking dish via Shutterstock
3. Cheesy Vegetable Pie with Corn and Zucchini
This delicious, cheesy zucchini casserole is perfect for evenings when you're out of zucchini inspiration. It combines two summer pals -- corn and zucchini -- with crimini mushrooms and a host of herbs. Mozzarella cheese and eggs lend structure to the pie.
Zucchini Bread Image from Shutterstock
4. Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Zucchini Bread
This play on the classic zucchini bread will suit any palate or dietary preference -- and it's just plain delicious, to boot. Zucchini adds moisture to this cake, which is made with hearty teff flour, ground flax seeds, and dark chocolate chips: the perfect bread for both breakfast and dessert.
From the Organic Authority Files
Image Credit: GlowKitchen
5. Spiralized Zucchini with Tahini Dressing
This delicious zucchini dish brings raw zucchini center-stage, with a fun play on the zoodle fad. A simple tahini-soy dressing with rich cherry tomatoes livens up this zucchini salad with creaminess and flavor.
Yellow summer squash image via Shutterstock
All About Yellow Squash -- and 4 Delicious Yellow Summer Squash Recipes
Yellow squash is not quite as mainstream as zucchini, but some varieties of yellow squash are actually fruits of the same plant. That said, the category of yellow squash includes several varieties; not just yellow zucchini, but also crookneck squash and papaya pear squash.
These varieties have comparable health benefits to zucchini, so stock up on both colors – it’ll only make your recipes more vibrant.
Yellow squash are slightly more difficult to find than green zucchini, but you should be able to find them at your farmer’s market.
Yellow summer squash costs, on average, about 50 cents more per pound than zucchini.
Here are just a few of our favorite ways to use yellow summer squash.
Image: Laura Klein
6. Spiralized Summer Squash with Tagliatelle, Peas, and Arugula Pesto
This recipe stands out from other zoodle recipes in that it pairs the spiralized summer squash with actual pasta. Both noodles are coated with a homemade vegan arugula pesto, and the addition of peas adds a touch of sweetness to distinguish from the peppery arugula.
7. Grilled Squash and Orzo Salad
This tasty salad is a great way to use any summer squash you have lying around -- different colors will only make the salad more beautiful. Orzo pasta forms the base, and a sauce of pine nuts, lemon juice, vinegar, and mint adds fresh summer flavor to the ensemble.
Ratatouille image via Shutterstock
8. Layered Ratatouille
While traditional ratatouille is a stewed sort of dish filled with summer vegetables, the version popularized by the Disney film "Ratatouille" layers these vegetables, to allow each of their individual flavors to shine through.
Stuffed squash image via Shutterstock
9. Stuffed Yellow Squash
Especially as they get larger, yellow squash are perfect for stuffing. This recipe calls for tomatoes, bell pepper, bacon, bread crumbs, and cheese for a flavorful stuffed squash that's the perfect accompaniment for a barbecue.
Heirloom Summer Squash, and Don't Forget About the Flowers!
Stuffed pattypan squash image via Shutterstock
10. Stuffed Pattypan Summer Squash
Aside from these two common varieties, there are also a wide variety of heirloom summer squashes, many of which are perfect for stuffing, like zucchini lunghi bianchi,pattypan squash, andglobe zucchini. This super-easy tomato and mozzarella stuffing will go wonderfully with any heirloom squash your market vendor has on-hand.
Stuffed zucchini flowers image via Shutterstock
11. Battered and Fried Zucchini Flowers
Stuffed zucchini blossoms are an Italian favorite in the summertime. This version is one of the simplest, stuffed with an herbed ricotta filling before being battered and fried. If you're growing zucchini in your garden, be sure to serve up the zucchini flowers this way, and if not, keep your eye out at your farmers market before they all disappear.
Editors’ Picks: A Culinary Voyage Down Under
While zucchini are eaten and enjoyed nearly all over the world, they’re particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand.
Native Australian Jade Maitre says that locals love to eat zucchini simply grilled on the barbecue, but they also tuck it into their favorite pasta dishes. Here are just two that she recommends.
12. Zucchini Tuna Bake
First, caramelize onions, then add the zucchini and caramelize them as well. Add a bit of butter and flour to help thicken the sauce, and then add your favorite brand of cream of mushroom soup. Add tuna and milk, and stir. This dish is usually served over rice with a squeeze of lemon.
Vegetable bolognese image via Shutterstock
13. Zucchini Spag Bol
Spaghetti Bolognese, or spag Bol, as it's called Down Under, is a perennial favorite. Make it a bit lighter for summer by adding zucchini to the recipe. You can either dice it and add it with the rest of the aromatic vegetables, or grate it so that it melts into the sauce.
Fish with zucchini image via Shutterstock
14. Zucchini Baked Fish
Maitre also notes that zucchini is a great addition to baked or grilled fish, something that Australians definitely know how to do right. This Asian-inspired barramundi recipe can just as easily be made on the grill as baked.
15. Fast Lamb Salad
Maitre also notes that many Australian dishes are inspired by Italian and Greek origins, and lamb is a local favorite. This fast lamb salad ticks all the boxes, combining lamb with peas, feta, fresh herbs, lemon, and, of course, zucchini.
Related on Organic Authority
4 Healthy Zucchini Recipes for Meatless Monday: Embrace Summer Squash
How to Cook Zucchini: From Pizza to Zoodles, the Possibilities Are Endless
11 Summer Recipes for Zucchini: Eating Seasonal
Summer squash image via Shutterstock