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Monday, 26 October 2015

Another day at the Green Zebra, another obscure-ish squash. This time it’s a large crookneck, again from God’s Little Acre farm in Surrey.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about squash, especially the non-traditional ones, it’s that they can be very difficult to identify. Crooknecks seem to have a very characteristic shape (bonus fact: a crook is the hooked staff of a shepherd) but still get called “summer squash” and other generic titles whenever google feels like it. Apparently crooknecks come in large and small sizes, with the small ones being most popular for their sweeter taste.

The recipe I tried out called for small crooknecks but I only had this big guy lying around. As you can tell from his beard, he’d been lying around for quite some time.

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After giving him a very close shave, I cut him in half, removed the seeds and chopped him into inch-wide pieces. His hull put up quite a fight, which apparently, is typical when crooknecks grow large.

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Not understanding the difference between large and small crooknecks I baked the pieces of squash with the rind on. Given the sweat I'd worked up trying to cut through the rind, I was pretty skeptical of leaving it on, but with a healthy dose of skepticism, I followed the recipe as directed. Sure enough, the rind remained rock hard, but the flesh was easy to separate after it had been baked.

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I added some tomatoes to the recipe to give the dish some color then added the egg and ricotta mixture.

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After a few minutes on broil to add some color to the top, we’re finished! Bonus learning: only half of my broiler seems to work.

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This recipe received 5 stars on food.com, which this dish definitely did not live up to. The ricotta is so mild, it’s hard to tell it’s in there and the squash was on the bitter side. This may have been due to how long it had stayed in my pantry and according to google, the flesh generally worsens as the squash matures. So, don't wait too long to use your crooknecks! Alternating squirts of Worcester sauce and sriracha definitely made it more edible.

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Nutritional Information:
As it turns out, summer squash (including crooknecks) are an excellent source of carotenoids, which are the pigments that give our fruit and vegetables the yellow/orange/red colors. Beta-carotene is one of the most well known carotenoids, which we commonly obtain from carrots.

Carotenoids are antioxidants and are particularly important in protecting our eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts. The trick to obtaining these nutrients is that they are primarily found in the skin, so my dish did not do my eyes any good. If you’re going to be eating skin, remember to buy organic (from the Green Zebra, perhaps?) to avoid the nasty pesticides used in conventional farming.

If you’re considering a squash dish, know that they retain a large part of their antioxidants through steaming and freezing, not so much through boiling and microwaving.

 1C cooked crookneck squash1C cooked potato
Calories36136
Fat (g)0.8g0.16g
Carbs(g)7.8g31.4g
Dietary Fiber(g)2.5g2.8g
Protein(g)1.6g2.9g

I chose potatoes as a comparison because they could be substituted quite easily to make a potato omelette. Squash gives you significantly fewer calories due to the lower carbohydrate content. It’s worth noting that while squash gives you fewer carbs, it gives you quite a high ratio of dietary fiber, including polysaccharide fibers like pectin which support blood sugar regulation and protect against type 2 diabetes. 

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