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Florida Produce: Squash

October 5, 2009

If I had to pick one of my favorite vegetables, squash is near the top of the list. I will admit I usually only cook it one way, but it is only because I think it’s so good! Sauté some yellow squash in olive oil and onions, with a dash of salt; delicious! I know I should branch out but I don’t.

Squash 4But enough about how I love squash. Native to Central America, Florida yellow squash grows abundantly in Central and South Florida. As a cucurbit, it is in the same family with melons and cucumbers. It is similar to zucchini in flavor and texture. Squash is available from October through May, with a peak in February.

How to buy
Look for Florida yellow squash that has a smooth peel that is bright to dark yellow and flesh that is firm with no soft spots. The smaller the squash, the more flavorful it is.

Tips for storage
Store in the refrigerator, but not in the coldest part, and wash just before use. Florida squash is picked when fully ripe so it is best to consume within three days of purchase. Because the skin is so thin, it is not necessary to peel yellow squash.

Cooking tips
Summer squash has high water content and sometimes needs to be drained; otherwise the dish you are preparing may become too watery. Drain the squash by cutting into slices, arranging in a shallow dish, and sprinkling with salt. After 20 to 30 minutes, rinse the slices under cold running water and pat dry.

When cooking summer squash, select cooking methods such as baking and grilling that will evaporate some of the moisture in the squash. This will produce a drier squash when cooked.

Squash flavors well with cheese, peppers, herbs, cumin, marjoram and onion.

Because every post is better with a recipe, here’s a simple one by Chef Justin that has Florida squash in it for you to enjoy!

Sweet Pepper Fajitas Summer - Sweet Pepper Fajitas
Yield 4 Servings

Ingredients
3 Florida bell peppers, sliced thin (assorted colors)
1/2 sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 lb Florida mushrooms, sliced thin
1 fresh Florida tomato, diced into small pieces
1 Florida yellow squash, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fajita sauce (your favorite)
4-8 wheat flour tortillas
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Topping ideas:
Cheese
Guacamole
Sour cream
Salsa

Preparation

In a medium-sized sauté pan, cook all vegetables in olive oil over medium-high heat, until almost tender. Add fajita sauce and stir until mixed well. Wrap tortillas in aluminum and warm in a 250 degree oven. Serve family style with your favorite toppings.

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