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Squash – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Aug 3, 2021

What is squash?

Squash is a variety of plants that belong to the same family. It can be classified as winter squash or summer squash. Winter squash such as pumpkin and butternut is harvested in the fall, has a hard rind, and keeps for a while. Summer squash is harvested in the warmer months and does not store well after a few days. Zucchini is a popular summer squash that most people are familiar with.

Botanically, squash is a fruit and grows from the flowering parts of a plant. But it is most often cooked as a vegetable, except when you’re making a dessert like a pumpkin pie!

Squash comes in many colors, textures, and tastes to suit your palate. You can use it in many recipes, either roasted, steamed, or baked. It can be cooked in stir-fries or even pureed for some recipes. Summer squash varieties like zucchini and yellow squash can even be eaten raw in salads.

Where did squash originate from?

The word squash comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.”

Squash is believed to be originally from Mexico and Central America and is one of the oldest known crops. It was an important part of the pre-Columbian Indian diet in both South and North America. Native Americans boiled and roasted squashes and conserved the flesh in syrups. They also ate the shoots, flowers, leaves, and seeds. Squash, along with corn and beans, were grown together and are considered the Three Sister crops cultivated by Native Americans.

What are the benefits of eating squash?

Squash is rich in the following nutrients:

  • Vitamins A, C, K, and B6
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Fiber

Squash, particularly yellow- and orange-colored ones, is a rich beta-carotene source, which transforms into vitamin A.

How is squash grown?

The terms “summer squash” and “winter squash” can be misleading in terms of when the plants are grown. Both are warm-season crops, but winter squash is grown for winter storage and thus harvested in the cooler months at full maturity. Unlike winter squash, summer squash is harvested when the fruits are immature.

Squash is grown in a wide variety of well-drained soil types. Summer squash is planted when the soil temperatures are warm enough for the seeds to germinate. The plants begin producing within 45 to 55 days of seeding. Summer squash is usually planted every 10 to 14 days to maintain production during the season.

Winter squash is also planted in warmer temperatures, and they require about 80 to 120 days to mature, particularly the vining types like spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and hubbard squash.

During peak season, summer squash is harvested at least three times a week. Winter squash is harvested 1 or 2 times once they are fully mature.

When is squash in season?

Most squash varieties, especially trendy varieties like butternut, kabocha, and banana squash, are found all year round in supermarkets, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets. However, some squash varieties like amber squash and autumn cup squash are only available during some months.

Summer squash varieties like zucchini can be found in the stores throughout the year but are in season from June through late August.

What should you look for when buying squash?

For all varieties of summer squash, pick those that are tender, glossy, medium-sized, and feel heavy and firm. Avoid large summer squash; it has a dull appearance and a hard surface.

When picking any winter squash varieties, look for firm outer shells without dark wet spots. Pick ones that feel heavy and firm.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for squash via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for squash.

How to store squash

Winter squash varieties last a long time after they are harvested. These varieties can be stored unrefrigerated in a cool dark place like a closet or pantry for a month or so. The squashes mustn’t touch each other in storage. Wrap each squash in paper or cloth and check for any mold or rot. Butternut squash and acorn varieties store the longest.

In contrast, summer squash has a short storage life up to a few days. Store summer squash in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 to 7 days.

How to tell if squash is bad

Summer squash will begin to get soft after 5 to 7 days. When you notice black marks on the skin, it is good to use the squash immediately. However, if you notice thick white liquid on the skin and the squash feels mushy, then it’s time to throw it away.

Winter squash will feel soft and mushy or begin to develop wet spots or ooze liquids. That’s when you know the squash is going bad. It may also develop mold, giving you a good indication of rot setting in.

What can I substitute for squash?

Here are fresh vegetables you can use as substitutes for some popular squashes:

  • Substitute zucchini with eggplant, yellow squash, pattypan squash, or chayote squash
  • Substitute butternut squash with buttercup squash, acorn squash, hubbard squash, or delicata squash
  • Replace chayote squash with courgette, zucchini, or kohlrabi
  • Substitute pumpkin with sweet potato, butternut squash, buttercup squash, or pumpkin
  • Replace pattypan squash with scallopini squash, zucchini, yellow squash, or baby acorn squash

Create squash dishes today

Squash is extremely versatile to cook and is packed with nutrients, making it a great addition to your diet. With so many varieties of squash available throughout the year, you are definitely spoiled for choice. Create some wholesome meals for you and your family using your favorite squash. Buy fresh squash today.

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