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Named for its curved neck, the yellow crookneck squash, which originated in Mexico, has been pleasing palates for over 10,000 years. It is a staple food for Native American tribes, and is among the oldest and most cultivated crops. Of the many varieties of squash, the yellow crookneck squash is especially loaded with healthy nutrients.
Yellow crookneck squash is part of the gourd family, a variety of Cucurbita pepo, which includes both winter and summer squash, such as zucchini, pattypan and pumpkin. The slight curve in its neck distinguishes it from its very close relative, the yellow summer squash, which has a straight neck. Light in calories -- a one-cup serving has only 36 -- the yellow crookneck is hefty in dietary fiber and antioxidants. One serving packs in 10 percent DV (Daily Value) of satisfying dietary fiber, 16 percent DV of vitamin C, and eye-healthy beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Yellow crookneck squash has been the focus of ample research, focused on its antioxidant benefits. Beyond vitamin C and manganese, yellow crooknecks are a strong source of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, known for protecting against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. A study in a 2013 issue of Investigative Opthamology & Visual Science found a 25 percent reduced risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc and copper supplementation. Replacing beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin increased the benefits even more. As many of the antioxidants are concentrated in the skin and seeds, it's important to eat the entire squash. Studies, such as one published in a 2008 issue of Journal of Food Science, show that steaming fresh and frozen summer squash retains the most antioxidants compared with boiling and microwave cooking.
Late spring and early summer are peak season for yellow crookneck squash, but it's available year round. Choose small- to medium-sized squash that are firm and heavy for their size, with a bright, smooth or slightly warted skin, clean of nicks, scratches or bruising. Interchangeable with other summer squashes in recipes, try yellow crooknecks raw -- sliced into ribbons in salads or sandwiches -- or grated into breads or fritters, sliced and sautéed, pureed into soups or smoothies and stuffed with whole grain bread crumbs and cheese.
Yellow crookneck squash (1 cup, sliced, cooked)
Dietary fiber: 3 g (10 percent DV)
Vitamin C: 10 mg(16 percent DV)
Vitamin K: 8 mcg(10 percent DV)
Folate: 36 mcg (9 percent DV)
Potassium: 306 mcg (9 percent DV)
Manganese: 0.3 mg (14 percent DV)
(Note: g=grams; mg=milligrams; mcg=micrograms; DV=Daily Manager)
Summer Squash Ribbon Salad
Makes 4 servings.
2 yellow squash, medium
2 zucchini, medium
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
1. Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, slice yellow squash and zucchini into thin ribbons.
2. In a large bowl, combine squash ribbons, red onions and basil. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar and black pepper.
4. Toss vinaigrette into salad and sprinkle with feta cheese.
(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.)