The term squash refers to a diverse variety of fruits found in the gourd family. Typically, squash varieties fall under classifications of "winter" and summer" for market use, though neither designation is entirely accurate. Some common types of squash include butternut, acorn, spaghetti, turban and sweet dumpling.
Winter and summer squash designations derive from a time when seasonal harvests and survival were often more direly linked than they are in modern times. Instead, most varieties of squash, regardless of type, appear on store shelves year round. Squash belongs to a family of vegetables called curcubits, a name which comes from a Native American (Mattachusett) word meaning to "be eaten raw." Other commonly found curcubit species include pumpkins, zucchinis and melons.
Many squash varieties are extremely nutritious, being excellent sources of vitamins A and C. Squash also boasts high levels of potassium and dietary fiber, while some dark varieties are suppliers of beta carotene. Because many squash species naturally contain high amounts of water, cooking methods that use dry heat are typically recommended, such as roasting and baking. If one does select an alternate method, such as grilling or sautéing, she can best avoid the squash becoming mushy by limiting the cooking time to the shortest possible.