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Squash leaves are medium to large in size and are broad and kidney bean-shaped, averaging 20-25 centimeters in length and 15-25 centimeters in width. The bright green, roughly-textured leaves feature 5-7 lobes and grow on thick, hairy stems with curling tendrils. The plant grows as a trailing vine, either on the ground or on trellises and has vibrant yellow flowers when in bloom. When cooked, Squash leaves have a toothsome texture and a mild, green, spinach-like flavor.
Squash leaves are available year-round.
Squash leaves most commonly grow on the winter melon plant, botanically classified as Benincasa hispida in the Cucurbitaceae family, alongside zucchinis, pumpkins, and gourds. The robust plant is known by many names, including Ash gourd, Wax gourd, and White gourd. All parts of the winter melon plant are edible, and Squash leaves, along with the stems and tendrils of the plant, are used as a vegetable in various parts of the world. The winter melon plant is widely grown throughout Asia and is an important food crop in India and China. It is mainly cultivated for its fruit, which is technically a gourd and not a melon; however, Squash leaves can often be found in markets right after farmers prune their winter melon plants.
Squash leaves are rich sources of minerals such as iron, potassium, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. They are also a good source of essential vitamins A, B and C, which have immune-boosting benefits and are beneficial for overall health.
Squash leaves are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, stir-frying, and steaming. It is not recommended to eat Squash leaves raw, as the scratchy outer layer may cause irritation. They can be used in stews and soups or simply sautéed in butter or olive oil with garlic. They can also be stir-fried with coconut milk, garlic, shallots, onions, or dried anchovies. Choose young Squash leaves for cooking, since older leaves are more tough and chewy. Some recipes call for the use of a vegetable peeler to remove the hairy skin of the stems or tendrils before cooking. Squash leaves pair well with meats such as chicken, fish, and beef, rice, lemons, limes, tomatoes, peanuts, ground melon seeds, curry powder, coconut milk, turmeric, garlic, and onions. Squash leaves are best used immediately, as they are prone to wilting when stored. Some home cooks recommend immersing the Squash leaves in a container of water, then placing the container in a plastic bag before refrigeration. This method helps keep Squash leaves from wilting for a couple of days.
Squash leaves are found in recipes throughout the world. In India, they are boiled then stir-fried with a paste made out of onions, garlic, turmeric, and coriander seeds, and eaten with boiled rice or chappatis. In the Philippines, the leaves are cooked along with the fruit of the winter melon in a stir-fry. In Nigeria, Squash leaves are used in stews or can be stir-fried along with garlic, onion, scotch bonnet peppers, stock, and dried crayfish or shrimp. Squash leaves are also used medicinally, as the winter melon plant is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine and in some parts of India, Squash leaves are crushed and applied to bruises.
Botanists are divided on the exact origins of the winter melon plant but have listed Indonesia, China, Japan, and India as possible locations. The winter melon has been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years and has been mentioned in Chinese medicinal texts dating back to 695 BCE. Today Squash leaves are available in fresh markets in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Recipes that include Squash Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Pranee's Thai Kitchen||Winter Squash Leaves in Salted Coconut Milk|
|Jennifer's Kitchen||Squash Greens|