We are deep in the midst of summertime, and if you are a gardener that means one thing…your summer squash plants are exploding!
Summer squashes are different from their more heartier winter cousins in that they are harvested when their skins are still soft and tender, and therefore edible. Yellow squash, zucchini, and patty pan squash are all types of summer squash. Rich in fiber and vitamins, summer squash can make an excellent addition to any meal, and their mild taste is usually well received by kids and grown-ups alike!
We don’t have squash in our garden this year, but we have been getting a lot of it in our CSA shares recently (click here to learn more about farm shares!). Unfortunately, with their tender skins they do not last nearly as long as winter squashes, so this means I am always looking for good ways to use them up before they go bad. Here are four ways to easily use up summer squash quickly, or to preserve them for another day!
Cut your squash up into small, half-inch size pieces, spread in a baking dish, add olive oil, and place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. You can also add any combination of chopped herbs, dried seasonings, or other additions such as cheese or other vegetables. Be creative! This is a great chance to use up any number of root vegetables that you have collecting in your refrigerator!
Almost the same as roasting, but fire up the grill! Make a small pocket out of a double layer of aluminum foil and add your chopped squash pieces. Add olive oil, onions, chopped herbs, and dried seasonings, and crimp the edges of the foil pocket to make a tight seal. Place on your grill while your meat or main dish is cooking to make a tasty side dish! Check out this link for some easy instructions on grilling squash.
Freezing is an excellent food preservation method, if you have the freezer space, and squash freezes particularly well. Frozen squash can be easily stored in a chest freezer for up to a year.
- To begin, wash your squash well and cut into small pieces of the size that you intend to use once the squash is thawed. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place the squash pieces in the water for approximately 3 minutes to blanch cook the pieces. Blanching will help to kill bacteria and destroy enzymes that are present on the squash that can break down the vegetable over time during storage.
- After 3 minutes, remove the squash and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool for approximately 5 minutes. This stops the cooking process quickly.
- Place the cooled pieces into quart or gallon size freezer bags or vacuum seal bags. If you are using zip-top bags it is important to get as much of the air out of the bags as possible to prevent freezer burn. I find it easy to use a straw placed in the side of the bag to suck out the air, then quickly remove the straw and seal.
- Lay the filled bags flat in your freezer until they are frozen solid, and then store up to a year. Remember that the thawed squash will be slightly mushy, and not firm like fresh squash, so it’s probably best to use frozen squash in soups or stews or other cooked items, instead of eating it plain.
Pickling is another great food preservation method, and refrigerator pickles are super easy and tasty! Most people think of cucumbers when they think of pickles, but many firm vegetables (including squash!) take well to pickling. Making refrigerator pickles requires no special equipment, and takes very little time.
- To turn your squash into pickles, first wash them well and scrub the skins gently. You can either cut them into small pieces, or (if you have small pattypan squash) leave them whole if they will fit into your jars. Pack your squash into jars or a clean bowl that can be tightly sealed. I used mason jars, but you could use any container that will close tightly.
- On the stove top, boil together your brine. This is usually a combination of water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. You can experiment with your own combinations or use any number of recipes available on the internet. I like this one , although I make a fair number of substitutions depending on what I have on hand.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, allow the brine to cool slightly, then pour the liquid over the squash to fill the jar. Seal the jar tightly, and place in the refrigerator.
- Let the pickles sit for at least 2 days (longer to really let the flavors develop), and they can be stored this way for up to about 1 month.
So there you have it, four great ways to use your summer squash!
Do you have other ways to use up your summer abundance? Share them in the comments!