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Most grocery stores keep one variety of yellow squash and one variety of zucchini on their produce shelves year round. However, the farmers market is a probable summer spot to find a bigger variety of summer squash, varying in different shapes, sizes and colors.

Zucchini can come in the traditional green color, but you may also find yellow zucchini. Not to be confused with yellow squash, this zucchini is yellow with a green stem and tastes a bit sweeter than the green version. Eight-ball zucchini is in a ball shape, rather than cylindrical, and is ideal for stuffing. Yellow squash can have a straight neck or a crookneck, which curves. Both varieties have a fatter bottom than zucchini.

If you’ve seen a squash shaped like a green, yellow or white flying saucer, you were looking at a pattypan squash. Similar to the eight-ball zucchini, it makes a nice edible decoration and is delicious stuffed with grains, veggies and cheese.

Unlike their winter squash counterparts, summer squash have soft, thin skin that is edible. However, older, oversized squash will have tough skins that need to be peeled. Summer squash can be eaten raw or cooked by way of roasting, steaming, sautéing, grilling or frying. Use a julienne peeler or a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, dice zucchini to put in egg dishes, or slice them thin, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, and bake them in the oven. Store raw, unwashed summer squash in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer for about a week. Similar to cucumbers, summer squash are 95 percent water. This yields a low-calorie vegetable (1 cup raw zucchini is only 20 calories). They’re also a good source of vitamin C and potassium. What’s not to love about summer squash?

Lemon and Rosemary Zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped

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2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced

2 cups zucchini, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1-3 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and rosemary; sauté for 2 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté for another 4-5 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 50 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 1 gram protein

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Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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