This heavily curved, elongated yellow squash is one of the popular summer squashes sought after for its sweet flavor and crunchy texture.
Scientific name: Cucurbita pepo var. torticollia.
|Crookneck squash and yellow zucchini. Note for deeply bent constricted neck. Courtesy: Bradley West|
Unlike the spreading type habitat of winter squashes, summer varieties exhibit shrub type growth and often require trellis to support growth. Crookneck can grow in wide range of well-draining, fertile soils.
Golden-yellow flowers begin to appear after about 35-45 days of plantation. Pollination occurs in the presence of honeybees. Fruits follow soon which should be picked up while they are about 2 inches across, young, immature, and tender. Crooknecks feature constricted "swan-like" neck at the stem end and bulge towards to blossom end.
Straight neck (C. pepo var. recticollis) cultivars are a hybrid type developed by crossing between crookneck and other squash types.
Both type exhibit bright, yellow skin that is either smooth or warty, and elongated, narrower neck which gradually bulges towards lower end. Inside, crookneck features yellow, moisture-rich flesh with sweet taste and crunchy texture, and soft edible seeds.
If left to grow, crookneck squash soon enlarges in size, its outer peel becomes tougher and seeds turn harder and inedible. Use protective gloves and knife while harvesting to avoid contacting with prickly stem and leaves.
Crookneck squash nutrition is characteristically very low in calories and fat but rich in health benefiting anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
100 grams of raw fruit just carries 19 calories, almost the same as zucchini's (17 cal). Besides, it holds no saturated fats or cholesterol.
Its peel is a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Do not discard summer squash skin.
Fresh crooknecks carry relatively smaller amounts of vitamin-A than butternuts; provide about 150 IU per 100 g. Vitamin-A is important for cell growth and development, and for good vision.
Its contains good amounts of flavonoid poly-phenolic pigment antioxidants such as carotenes (90 μg-lutein, and zeaxanthin-290 μg).
Together with vitamin-A, these pigment compounds work as antioxidants in scavenging harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body.
Fresh crookneck is a very good source of vitamin-C (19.3 mg or 32% of RDA /100 g) than that in zucchinis. Vitamin-C is essential for collagen synthesis in bones, cartilage, and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron.
100 grams of fresh squash provides 19 µg or 5% of RDA per 100 gm of folates. Folate is one of the necessary element involved in cell division and DNA synthesis. Adequate folates in the diet is necesary during early pregnancy to prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn baby.
As in other summer squash varieties, crookneck squash nutrition also feature less sodium (2 mg/100 g) but high potassium (222 mg/100 g), an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressing effects of sodium.
Moreover, it has good amounts of other B-complex groups of vitamins like thiamin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc and traces of selenium.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.27 g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||2.6%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.160 mg||3%|
Summer squash including crookneck begin arriving in the markets from June and until the end of September. In the markets, buy fresh, small to medium size, bright, immature fruits.
Avoid very large, hard shelled over-mature fruits as they tend to be unappetizing. Also avoid those with cuts, spots, bruised etc.
Unlike winter squashes and pumpkin, crookneck do not last more than 4-6 days. At home, store fresh squash as you do for other summer squash like zucchini, in a plastic bag, and place inside the vegetable compartment in the refrigerator set at 95 degrees of relative humidity.
At home, wash fruits in cold water to remove any surface sand. Trim the stem end. Tender crookneck can be used with intact skin. Cut the fruit into slices, small cubes, or wedges as you may desire them in cooking.
Crookneck used in a variety of recipes like baked, stuffed, grilled, roasted, etc.
Apart from its fruits, summer squash flowers including crookneck flowers are one of the most sought-after items and can make a great side-dish. Male blossoms generally picked up and female flowers left for growing into fruits. Small numbers of female flowers with intact, very tiny fruit (baby squash) favored as a special delicacy.
|Stuffed crookneck and pattypan squash recipe. Photo courtesy: mlcastle.|
Here are some serving tips:
Crookneck squash is inexpensive, healthy addition to meals. It can be used in substitution to another type of squash without changing the flavor of the dish.
Fresh, tender, thin sliced crookneck squash can be added to vegetable salads.
The squash blossoms dipped in chickpea flour batter, fried in oil and enjoyed as delicious fritters!
As in pumpkin, it can be employed in soups, pies, casseroles, cakes, pudding, etc.
Baked and pureed, it can make a delicious soup.
Allergic reactions are rare after consumption of crookneck squash. It can be safely used in pregnant women and infants. (Medical disclaimer).
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