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Produce Corner: Summer Squash

The Produce Corner is a column by farmer and Dill Pickle owner Rob Montalbano. Here Rob shares info on some of his favorite in-season veggies including history, cooking ideas and storage tips. Rob lives and works with his wife Christina on their farm in Sandwich, IL. This month's column also features some words from Kristen Martinek, Dill Pickle's Produce Lead Buyer. 

Summer squash. Zucchini. Crookneck. Patty Pans. What's the deal with that plant anyway?

Every gardener in America and beyond has a story to tell about the zucchini plant that got away. It's a story that loves to be told. Chicagoans grow squash because it's easy and prolific but it's good for you too. Like most vegetables, it's loaded with vitamins and minerals and, if you keep the skins on, fiber. On the farm, we plant four different types of summer squash (there are dozens of varieties) every two to three weeks. This ensures a plentiful supply from June through September. Summer squash is different from winter squash primarily in that we eat the fruit in an immature form, with the skin still soft.

When you buy summer squash, the most tender fruits will be less than 8-10 inches long (larger squash are excellent for use in bread). Look for a smooth, firm skin but a few wrinkles will be fine if you're planning on using it for dinner that night. Store summer squash in a protected place inside the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag. Summer squash also freezes very well. It will not retain its texture but frozen squash works great in wintertime stews and soups and breads. Lastly, be sure to try summer squash on the grill. First, I slice the squash into quarters, lengthwise, and marinate a little with some olive oil and fresh herbs. Keep the skins on (of course!) and grill it until the skin gets a little charred. Roast it up with some other fresh vegetables from the market and you'll even impress yourself. Enjoy! - Rob

Another great way to enjoy summer squash is by turning it into noodles by way of a spiralizer (if you don't have a spiralizer, vegetable peelers work well too). You may be thinking raw, squash noodles?! Is she nuts? Well, coming from someone who isn't too keen on raw summer squash or pasta, I absolutely LOVE zucchini noodles! It is by far one of my favorite summer meals; it is light, refreshing and takes less than five minutes to prepare. Zucchini noodles are a great option for those who adhere to a gluten-free diet, for anyone who may be overwhelmed with too much squash this time of year, or someone who is merely intrigued by new ideas. You can enjoy them as you would a typical pasta dish topped with your favorite pesto or marinara sauce, add to a salad, and/or incorporate into a wrap. Here is a delicious recipe to get you hooked on zucchini noodles; remember the possibilities are endless! -Kristen



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