The folklore. The sunny burst of ubiquitous yellow crookneck squash in gardens and farmers markets is a welcome sign of summer. Named for its curved neck, the yellow crookneck squash, which originated in Mexico, has been pleasing palates for over 10,000 years. It is a staple food for Native American tribes, and is among the oldest and most cultivated crops. Of the many varieties of squash, the yellow crookneck squash is especially loaded with healthy nutrients.
The facts. Yellow crookneck squash is part of the gourd family, a variety of Cucurbita pepo, which includes both winter and summer squash, such as zucchini, pattypan, and pumpkin. The slight curve in its neck distinguishes it from its very close relative, the yellow summer squash, which has a straight neck. Light in calo-ries—a one-cup serving has only 36—the yellow crookneck is hefty in dietary fiber and antioxidants. One serving packs in 10% DV (Daily Value) of satisfying dietary fiber, 16% DV of vitamin C, and eye-healthy beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Yellow Crookneck Squash (1 cup, sliced, cooked)
Dietary fiber: 3 g (10% DV)
Vitamin C: 10 mg (16% DV)
Vitamin K: 8 mcg (10% DV)
Folate: 36 mcg (9% DV)
Potassium: 306 mg (9% DV)
Manganese: 0.3 mg (14% DV)
(Note: g=grams, mg=milligrams, mcg=micrograms, DV=Daily Value )
The findings. Yellow crookneck squash has been the focus of ample research, focused on its antioxidant benefits. Beyond vitamin C and manganese, yellow crooknecks are a strong source of the carotenoids be-ta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, known for protecting against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. A study in a 2013 issue of Investigative Opthamology & Visual Science found a 25 percent reduced risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc and copper supplementation. Replacing beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin increased the benefits even more. As many of the antioxidants are concentrated in the skin and seeds, it’s important to eat the entire squash. Studies, such as one published in a 2008 issue of Journal of Food Science, show that steaming fresh and frozen summer squash retains the most antioxidants compared with boiling and microwave cooking.
The finer points. Late spring and early summer are peak season for yellow crookneck squash, but it’s available year round. Choose small- to medium-sized squash that are firm and heavy for their size, with a bright, smooth or slightly warted skin, clean of nicks, scratches or bruising. Interchangeable with other summer squash-es in recipes, try yellow crooknecks raw—sliced into ribbons in salads or sandwiches—or grated into breads or fritters, sliced and sautéed, pureed into soups or smoothies and stuffed with whole grain bread crumbs and cheese.
EN’s Own Summer Squash
2 yellow squash, medium
2 zucchini, medium
1⁄₃ c red onion, thinly sliced
¼ c fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
- Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, slice yellow squash and zucchini into thin ribbons.
- In a large bowl, combine squash ribbons, red onion and basil. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar and black pepper.
- Toss vinaigrette into salad and sprinkle with feta cheese.
Makes 4 servings
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 115 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 2 g fiber, 75 milligrams sodium.
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