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Can You Eat Raw Squash?

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Squashes are incredibly versatile vegetables that are also pretty nutritious and low in calories — they’re a great way to incorporate essential vitamins and minerals, all while adding a rich, earthy, and often sweet flavor to your meal!

Today, more and more people are moving away from cooking vegetables and instead are eating them raw. This is because raw vegetables tend to be a lot more nutritious!

So, can you eat squash raw? In short, the stems of squash aren’t edible. All parts of the summer squash species are edible including their soft skin, seeds, and flesh. For winter squash, only the flesh is edible — you will have to peel off the skin and remove the seeds.

Today, we will explore the many species of winter and summer squash that are edible when raw. We’ll also briefly explain what you should look out for in potentially inedible species.

We’ve also included an in-depth buying guide so you can enjoy the freshest flavor and perfect texture of raw (and cooked) squash!

Different Types Of Squash

There are two main types of squash: summer squash and winter squash. It’s important to know the difference between the two because it actually affects which parts are edible, and when!

So, first, we’ll take a look at winter squashes. Winter squash is a category of squash species with similar characteristics.

These squash are harvested when they have fully matured. That means that the seeds have fully grown, and the outer layer of skin has hardened considerably.

All of these squash also have some physical similarities. They all have thick, hard skins (like we’ve mentioned), coarse and sometimes wart-like textures, and very odd shapes.

Winter squashes also grow differently. They grow from vine-like plants, whereas summer squashes grow in a bush-like manner.

Next, we have summer squashes. This category of squashes is harvested when they are immature — this makes their seeds very small and their skins very soft and tender.

Summer squashes also have a much shorter shelf life because of their delicate texture and thin skin.

Should You Eat Raw Squash?

Now, all types of squash are edible, both summer and winter squash. However, there is a difference in which parts you can eat raw.

When it comes to summer squash species, you can eat all of them raw — just remove the stem at the top of the squash.

The skin is thin and tender and can easily be eaten raw and cooked. The seeds are also so small that they won’t create an unappealing experience.

When it comes to winter squashes, on the other hand, only the flesh is edible. You have to remove the hard skin and thick, large seeds on the inside. These parts are not edible when the squash is raw or cooked.

It’s also important to know that winter squash is almost always served cooked.

When raw, it can be very dry and not extremely flavorful. When it cooks, the flavors develop and enhance, making the squash sweeter, more tender, and very juicy.

So, even though winter squash is edible raw, it’s not going to be very appealing. Summer squash is a far better option.

Which Types Of Squash Are Edible When Raw?

Now that you know the entire summer squash is edible (flesh, seeds, and skin), whereas only the flesh of the winter squash species are edible, let’s move on to some excellent edible examples of both summer and winter squash species!

Summer Squash

zucchini on wood background

The most popular and common types of summer squash species include zucchini, straightneck squash, crookneck squash, pattypan squash, and immature ridge gourd luffa (a common species of squash in tropical regions).

Remember, all types of summer squashes have very thin, soft, and tender skin. Their seeds are small, and they generally are full of moisture.

To prepare any of these squash varietals, you can just remove the tip with the stem. Then, dice or slice the squash in any way that you’d like to serve it raw!

Winter Squash

There are far more species of winter squash than there are summer squash options.

Butternuts and all pumpkin species are the most famous examples that are found globally. Some other examples include banana, red Kuri, cushaw, calabaza, acorn squash, delicata, and spaghetti squash.

For all of these examples, you will first have to peel the skin. In some cases, a vegetable peeler will work just fine. But for most of these, a sharp paring knife will get the job done much more effectively and quicker.

Once the skin is removed, you can cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fibers. These seeds are often edible, but they need to be roasted (preferably with some salt) and dried first.

After the winter squash has been prepared, you can now serve it raw in any way that you’d like.

Which Types Of Store-Bought Squash Are Not Edible When Raw?

Technically, all squash varietals you can find in the store or at the farmers’ market are edible when raw — we couldn’t find any specific species that aren’t.

However, there is a medical condition (toxic squash syndrome) that can be caused by bitter squash.

What exactly is bitter squash? It can be any type of squash from the Curubitaceae family (pumpkins, squash, melons, or cucumber) that produce a dangerous amount of cucurbitacins (a toxic chemical).

These toxins give the squash a bitter flavor that is very prominent — you won’t miss it! But please keep in mind that TSS doesn’t happen often, and the symptoms aren’t deadly. It is very unlikely that you will purchase a bitter squash.

Other than the rare bitter squash, there are no specific species of squash found in stores that aren’t edible. The only part of winter squash that you cannot eat is the stem, skin, and seeds.

Side note: This doesn’t mean you should harvest any random-growing squash in the wild — we are only talking about squash found in stores.

Many types of pumpkins and gourds that are found in the wild are not edible and are actually toxic, but you won’t ever find these in stores because farmers obviously won’t grow them.

What Does Edible Raw Squash Taste Like?

That really depends on what type of squash you have. Because there are so many species, they all have similarities, but they are still pretty different.

Raw butternut squash (the flesh only) has an earthy flavor with nutty undertones. It is also slightly sweet, very much like raw carrots.

Raw zucchini also has a slightly sweet flavor with earthy undertones, but it has a very rich feel to it with slightly bitter notes coming through.

This is not the same bitter flavor that bitter squash gives — bitter squash has an extremely prominent and noticeable bitter flavor.

Patty pan squashes are sweeter than zucchini and butternut. Again, they have earthy undertones that most squash varietals share.

Raw acorn squash isn’t sweet at all — in fact, it’s quite astringent with bitter undertones (but again, not like a bitter squash).

If you are looking for a specific flavor, you can do a quick Google search that will help you find a squash that meets your needs best.

How To Choose The Best Squash For Eating Raw

Choosing the best winter squash and summer squash doesn’t share the same criteria.

Since you plant to eat the squash raw, you need to choose the best option you possibly can. Cooking away minor flaws won’t be possible with raw squash!

Winter Squash

First, choose any squash that feels heavy for its size. If it’s heavy it means that it is super dense and has fully matured. These squashes will give you the best flavor which is especially important because you are using them raw.

Next, you can look at the external qualities of the option you chose. Obviously, the skin should be intact with no damage, moldy spots, or rotten areas.

The color usually won’t be uniform, and many winter squash species include a variety of colors and shades. Squash with rich and deep colors is usually best.

There shouldn’t be any random colors. For example, everyone knows that butternuts have white-yellow or cream-colored skin. So if you see a green or red spot, something is off. 

If you are buying squash you aren’t familiar with, look at all the squash in front of you. You will easily get an accurate idea of what that species should look like.

You may notice a pale circle on some squashes — this is from pressure where the squash laid down. This discoloration is perfectly normal and fine.

Summer Squash

Summer squash is more delicate and has a shorter shelf life than winter squash. So, you will need to really look at their surface and texture.

First, these should have a uniform color and pattern. A stripy zucchini should be half-solid in color and half-stripy. A yellow patty pan shouldn’t have different shades of yellow. Fresh summer squash is also very rich and deep in color.

If the squash is darker than the rest, it means it has been exposed to direct sunlight for a while. This will affect the fresh flavor and also the shelf life.

Next, the squash shouldn’t be soft or mushy. The entire squash should still be firm but not hard (like the skin on winter squash).

You should also look for any blemishes like rotting areas, mold, and heavy discoloration. These are all obvious visual signs that the squash isn’t good.

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