The end of summer means the arrival of peak squash season—and though summer’s end can often leave people feeling nostalgic for earlier, sunnier months, squash season is worthy of eager anticipation! A highly versatile ingredient, it’s perfect for sautéing, roasting, grilling, or baking. Squash season opens endless opportunities to try out new recipes in the kitchen. And, in addition to being an accessible and delicious ingredient, it provides important nutritional benefits: just one serving provides over 30 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C! 

You might have noticed as you stroll through the supermarket or your local farmer’s market that there are quite a few types of squash. Though these varieties are often clumped together, there are subtle differences in texture, flavor, and size that make each unique. 

Perhaps the most beloved summer squash is zucchini, and for good reason. Zucchini can be green or yellow, is typically on the sweeter side, and is best when picked small and firm. Thanks to its naturally sweet flavor, grilling or sautéing zucchini with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt is enough to make the fruit’s natural sweetness come alive. Sautéed zucchini and other similar varieties—pattypan, crookneck, etc.—serves as a great side dish or addition to a salad or pasta. Top freshly grilled zucchini with diced heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper for a simple yet delicious side dish. Or, toss together sautéed crookneck squash and zucchini, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, and, feta with al dente whole grain pasta for a refreshing pasta salad loaded with nutrients and perfect for outdoor gatherings.

Pattypan squash, sometimes called UFO, button, or scallop squash, comes in all sorts of colors and sizes. It’s slightly tougher and milder than zucchini and traditional yellow squash, so it can endure longer cooking times and higher temperatures. Pattypan squash is a great addition to chilis, ratatouilles, and stews—try combining roasted pattypan squash with couscous, chickpeas, cumin, onion, and lemon for a hearty lunch or dinner. Like many vegetables, zucchini packs a nutrition punch. One medium zucchini is an excellent source of Vitamin C, contains 2 grams of fiber (don’t peel that skin if you don’t need to!) and is a good source of potassium, all in about just 30 calories.

Zucchini noodles, or ‘zoodles’ are a delicious, inventive way to use zucchini. Use a spiralizer, mandolin, or grater to slice the zucchini, then soften these ‘zoodles’ in a skillet with olive oil for a few minutes. Once the desired texture is reached, top the zoodles with any combination of classic Mediterranean ingredients—softened tomatoes, chickpeas, feta, kalamata olives, basil, oregano, olive oil, lemon…the possibilities are endless! We like to add zucchini noodles to whole wheat spaghetti and tomato sauce dishes as a way to add new colors and textures to a traditional, family favorite meal.

If you don’t have a spiralizer, try making spaghetti squash boats. Also known as calabash or vegetable squash, spaghetti squash’s softer texture allows it to be easily scraped into clear, noodle-like strands after being roasted in the oven. Fill the carved-out spaghetti squash with any assortment of vegetables, ground meat, and fresh herbs and spices.

Squash can even find its way into desserts and treats, subtly infusing baked goods with a boost of nutrition. Because of its ability to absorb moisture and pleasantly pair with everything from chocolate to nutmeg, zucchini serves as a great addition to muffins, breads, and cakes. 

As late summer gives way to fall, you’ll notice new varieties of squash cropping up at the market. Acorn squash is a round, green-colored variety with a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Try roasting it to bring out its sweeter notes, or split it in half and stuff the cavity with your favorite whole grain, chopped nuts, and dried fruit. 

Butternut squash can lend richness and creaminess to salads, soups, and stews. Try tossing cubes of it into a slow-cooked Moroccan tagine to complement the vibrant flavors of allspice, cinnamon, and cumin. Or, roast it and toss with farro or spelt for a sweet and savory Mediterranean grain bowl.

Seasonal vegetables are a hallmark of the Mediterranean Diet, and are one of the key characteristics that help contribute to the remarkable health benefits of Mediterranean eating. Whether you live along the Mediterranean Sea, or simply want to experience the Mediterranean approach to eating, the bounty of seasonal squash is certainly something to look forward to—it opens the door to newfound creativity and discovery in the kitchen every year!


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