Bowl of carrot spaghetti and bowl of Zoodles

Versatile and nutritionally dense, summer squash are great to cook with and easy to season, since they're on the milder side.

Summer squash come in many varieties—yellow, green, white—and all manner of shapes and sizes, including crookneck and straightneck. You can eat them whole, soft seeds and rind included, since the rind is the most nutrient-dense part of the squash. They're also delicious sliced into delicate ribbons for a simple salad topping.

How to select summer squash

Look for squash that are firm, plump, and shiny. Baby squash are usually around a couple inches long. Regular squash tend to be up to 4 inches in diameter (round) or 8 inches in length (crookneck and straightneck). Bigger squash are more fibrous, dense, and tough. They're also more likely to have bitter seeds. Firm baby squash won't be rubbery at all, and texture makes a big difference to the dish you're making.

Get to know the different types of summer squash and what works best for the recipes you have in mind.

How to microwave summer squash and zucchini

  1. Wash summer squash (or zucchini) and remove any tiny prickly hairs by scrubbing them off (you don't have to peel the skin).  
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and cut into slices half an inch thick.
  3. Lay the slices cut-side-down in a microwave-safe baking dish. 
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of water and cook on high in 5-minute intervals. You'll know it's done when it's completely soft and cooked through, which takes about 5 to 7 minutes for half a summer squash, depending on the size and type.
  5. Drain and serve the squash with butter (or margarine), salt, and pepper. 
  6. Add herbs or seasonings as desired, such as parsley, chives, or vinaigrette. 
  7. Cover the baking dish with its own lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap for storage.

What are the nutritional benefits of summer squash?

Yellow squash is a low-calorie, low-fat, cholesterol-free wonder. The few calories in yellow squash come from its carbs, which are also low—just one cup of sliced yellow squash has about four grams of carbs. This makes it a great substitute for high-calorie veggies, such as potatoes and corn, if reducing caloric intake is a dietary consideration.

If you're looking to boost your nutrition plan and support your immune system, yellow squash surprisingly contains moderate levels of vitamin C. You'll get approximately 19 mg of vitamin C per cup of sliced yellow squash, a vitamin that fights infections and supports collagen production (found in your skin, joints, and bones). It's all good stuff.

Does microwaving yellow squash kill the nutrients?

This is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to microwaving your food, not just your squash. According to the New York Times, microwaves do the least damage to nutrients because of their shorter cooking times and less heat used. The most heat-sensitive nutrients are water-soluble vitamins, including folic acid and vitamins B and C, often found in vegetables.

The less water you use, the greater the amount of nutrients your squash will retain—3 tablespoons shouldn't cause your squash to lose its nutritional value. Other options for preparing fresh yellow squash include grilling, baking, and steaming.

So get to it—your love affair with yellow squash starts now, especially now that you know it doesn't take more than 10 minutes of prep time.