Lately, I’ve been the grateful recipient of yellow summer squash, green zucchini squash and wonderful cucumbers from friends whose gardens have overfloweth with the vined treasures. I grew up loving squash and zucchini, cooked and raw… my husband, on the other hand, is not a fan.
What’s not to love about the garden grown, fresh vegetables that take over and produce such wonderful food items? The texture, is what I often hear from anti-squashers. The mooshy texture is not what they’re looking for in a food item.
But wait, I just called the squash a vegetable – and that’s completely inaccurate. Yellow squash, zucchini and any other kind of squash you can think of, are actually fruit. It’s a common mistake made by many people, but I’m here to let you know that is indeed not a vegetable.
I know, it surprised me, too. I’ve lived my entire nearly-half-a-century-on-earth being told and telling my own to, “eat your vegetables,” when squash was on the plate. I wonder if it would’ve been easier to get kids to eat their zucchini if we’d called it fruit?
It was fun getting them to eat zucchini by having a special kitchen contraption that turned the green squash into pasta-like strings before lightly sautéing it, calling it “zoodles.” Serving it in the place of noodles, with a hearty spaghetti sauce and lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese, was delicious, too.
A fruit is a seed-bearing structure that grows from the ovary of a flowering plant. Vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems. So by those standards, seedy outgrowths such as apples, squash and even tomatoes are all fruits. Roots such as beets, potatoes and onions; leaves such as spinach, kale and lettuce, and stems such as celery and broccoli are all vegetables.
All types of squash have seeds and come from the flowering part of plants. The edible flowers that grow out of squash are known as squash blossoms. Therefore, squash is considered a fruit. The last time we grew squash, we enjoyed fried squash blossoms… they are such a treat and considered quite a delicacy as you can only harvest them from summer and winter squash. Once you pick them, you can use them raw in salads, or stuff them with the cheese of your choice, dredge through flour and lightly fry them. There’s so much to do with these lovely little blossoms.
To tell the difference between male and female flowers, you need to keep an eye on your budding plants. Male squash flowers have a straight, narrow stem that’s usually two or more inches long. Female blossoms have a swollen stem that looks like a miniature version of the mature fruit. This swollen area develops before the flower begins to open, so you can determine the flower gender as soon as the buds begin to form. You should only pick the male squash blossoms – female blossoms turn into fruit.
While zucchini is often called “summer squash,” it can be found at the grocery store year round. You can pick it when it’s just a few inches long, or if you let it grow, it can grow up to three feet long! The larger the fruit grows, the woodier and less enjoyable it will be.
Since we’ve been gifted so much yellow and green fruit, I’ve made several batches of Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash) and used it as taco filling. I thought it was terrific, and it was vegetarian and vegan until I added cheese and chicken to the tacos. Even Mr. Anti-Squash said the tacos were tasty. Score one for me.
The real way to win in getting the squash eaten is zucchini bread. A little sweet, a little cinnamony, and a lot zucchini… and this favorite bread will disappear faster than you can explain why a squash is a fruit, not a vegetable.
1 cup pure cane white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (or whatever oil you prefer baking with – you can also substitute applesauce for 1/2 the oil)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups grated zucchini (you can add a little more if you like)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Grease two 8×4-inch pans, or 6 mini loaf plans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Assemble your ingredients. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.
Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well.
Grate zucchini. Stir into the mixture along with the nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Mini-loaf pans take about 35-40 minutes. Large sized loaves take about 55 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool. Enjoy!