Summer squash is a fruit vegetable belonging to the same class as eggplant, peppers, etc. and occurring in many varieties. The different kinds of this vegetable vary greatly in size, shape, and color, but all of them may be prepared in practically the same way and used for the same purposes. They get their name from the fact that they are grown and used during the summer season; in fact, they must be used at this time, for they do not permit of storage.
Summer squash contains a great deal of water, and for this reason its food value is very low, being about equal to that of lettuce, celery, etc. Because of the large percentage of water in its composition, as little water as possible should be added in its cooking, or the result will be a vegetable so watery as to be unattractive and unpalatable. Another precaution that should be taken in its preparation is to remove the seeds and the skins. Many housewives think it unnecessary to do this, for both the skins and the seeds can be eaten after cooking; but most persons prefer to have them removed, as the dish appears more appetizing. Vegetable marrow is a type of summer squash and may be prepared for the table by any of the recipes for summer squash.
Winter squash is the kind of squash that may be removed from the vine in the fall and stored for winter use. Although both summer and winter squashes are closely related, they differ considerably in appearance, flavor, texture, and composition. The different varieties of winter squash are usually larger than summer squashes and have a very hard outside covering; also, they contain less water and more carbohydrate and, consequently, have a higher food value. Winter squashes are usually taken from the vines in the fall before the frost sets in, and before they are placed in storage they are allowed to lie in the sunshine for a few days until the skin hardens and becomes flinty. If the outside covering is unmarred when the squashes are stored, they will remain in good condition almost the entire winter season, provided the storage place is cool and dry.
To prepare winter squash for cooking, cut it open, remove the seeds, and peel off the outside skin. Because of the hardness of the covering, a cleaver or a hatchet is generally required to open the squash and cut it into pieces. With this done, scrape out the seeds and, with a very sharp large knife, peel off the skin. The squash may then be cooked in any suitable manner.