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Kentucky’s summer squash are tasty, easily prepared

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Summer squash are staples in Kentucky gardens and at local farmers markets. Their versatility makes them easy to prepare for tasty summer meals and side dishes.  Two of the more popular varieties include yellow squash and zucchini.

Squash are fleshy vegetables protected by a hard rind. They belong to the plant family that includes melons and cucumbers.  This skin and rind of summer squash are rich in the nutrient beta-carotene, but the fleshy portion of this vegetable is not. To gain the full nutritional benefits of this vegetable, the skins or rinds must be eaten.

Even though some varieties grow on vines while others grow on bushes, squash are commonly divided into two groups, summer and winter.  There are several types of summer squash, but zucchini is the most popular summer squash purchased in the United States.  Summer squash come in many different colors and shapes. The different varieties of summer squash are interchangeable in most recipes, because most are similar in texture and flavor.

Choose squash that are firm and fairly heavy for their size, otherwise they may be dry and cottony inside. Look for squash that have bright, glossy exteriors. Avoid buying squash that have nicks or bruises on their skins or ones that have soft spots.  

Place summer squash in plastic bags and store in the refrigerator. Fresh summer squash should keep for up to a week.  Thicker-skinned varieties will stay fresh for two weeks on longer.

For those who like to grow their own produce, summer squash is a good choice. It can be started from seed and will take about 55 days to mature when planted directly.  A quicker way is to use a transplant which you start at home or purchase.  Transplants will mature in about 45 days depending on the environment.  As a general rule to avoid frost damage, plants should not be placed in Kentucky gardens until May 10.

Squash Supreme
4 cups sliced summer squash
1 medium onion, sliced
½ cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup fat free sour cream
1 – 10 3/4 ounce can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups dry corn bread stuffing mix
¼ cup melted margarine

Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F.

Steam the summer squash, onion and red bell pepper until slightly tender.  Combine sour cream and cream of chicken soup.  Add steamed vegetable to soup mixture and toss to coat.  Combine corn bread stuffing mix and melted margarine.  Place half the stuffing mixture in the bottom of a greased 2-quart casserole dish.  Add vegetable mixture; top with remaining stuffing mix.  Baker for 45 min. or until mixture bubbles.

Source: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov     Kentucky Proud Project

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.