There are a multitude of summer squash varieties that are closely related to the popular zucchini (Curcurbita pepo) (called marrow by the British and courgette by the French), including yellow squash, yellow crookneck, and pattypan squash. They are all in the Curcurbitaceae (Gourd) Family, making them relatives of cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon. Summer squashes are Native to Central America.
Summer squashes are ideal cooling food for the hot season. They are alkaline, alterative (blood purifying), anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and diuretic. Summer squashes have been used to treat colitis, constipation, hypertension, indigestion, kidney and bladder disorders, obesity, and ulcers. Though less nutrient dense than the harder more orange colored winter squashes, summer squashes contain beta-carotene, folic acid, and vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.
Summer squashes are ideally harvested when considered unripe, fewer than six to nine inches long. Look for squash that is heavy for its size and blemish free. Storing them in plastic bags encourages spoilage. If left to grow, zucchini get as big as a baseball bat, and are about as tasty. The flowers of all summer squashes are edible and can be stuffed with guacamole or other fillings. Scoop out the insides of summer squash and stuff with celery, chopped spinach and nuts. Use slices for dipping or as crudités. Try them sliced or grated into salads, made into pickles or pureed into soups and sauces. Using a tool called a Spirulizer, summer squashes can be shred into noodle like threads and used as low carbohydrate pasta. Various types of summer squashes can be substituted for one another in recipes.
A Polish Study conducted at The National Institute of Health discovered compounds in squash seeds called protease trypsin inhibitors that impede viruses and cancer causing compounds from becoming activated in the intestinal tract. The raw seeds are also used in folk medicine to rid the body of round and tapeworms.