The thin-skinned summer squash have few calories and many uses in the kitchen. The thick-skinned winter squash have darker flesh and are a prime source of beta-carotene and minerals. (Family: Curcurbitaceae)
Grown in summer they develop a firm skin that protects the squash for winter storage and eating. Field-cure for 10 days in the sun, or cure indoors in a warm room for 4-5 days. To prevent mould, sponge the skins with clean water before storage.
Squash cross-pollinate within a species. This won’t affect this year’s fruit, but if you grow 2 varieties of C. pepo, for instance, the fruit will have seeds that, if planted, will grow next year into a fruit that does not resemble what you harvested this year. To save seeds, grow only 1 variety of a species at a time.
Because of their diversity, few generalizations can be made about the nutritional values of the various squashes. Summer squash (zucchinis, cocozelles, summer pumpkins, scalloped types, vegetable marrows and a handful of others) are eaten while they are immature, and are at the peak of their texture and flavour only a few days after pollination. These contain as much as 95% water, but are high in dietary fibre, protein, vitamin C, and potassium. Because winter squashes are left to mature, they contain significantly greater quantities of sugar, vitamins, and a much broader range of minerals. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with protein, zinc, vitamins, and are thought to lower cholesterol. Oil extracted from pumpkin seeds (which is very popular in Central and Eastern Europe) is rich with the fatty acids that maintain good blood vessel and nervous system health.