Yellow squash with bumps

My first memories of summer squash are of pale apple-green rounds, a few inches across and with scalloped edges, picked from my mother’s World War II victory garden. She either steamed or boiled the squash gently until tender, then mashed them with a nice pat of butter. She served them simply, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. They were heavenly.

But today I’m more inclined to cut summer squash-any of the several varieties now available in stores-into thick slices, brushing them lightly with olive oil, then grilling them when I barbecue. Sometimes I drizzle them with a little balsamic vinegar just before serving.

Like their winter cousins, which are distinguished by their hard skins, summer squash are members of the gourd family. They are picked immature when the skin is tender and the seeds are underdeveloped and edible. Originating in the Andes mountains, summer squash, especially zucchini, are one of this country’s most popular vegetables.

Cooking squash in all its forms is easy because the outer skin allows the squash to hold its shape through sauteeing, steaming, grilling or baking. Whatever method you choose, simply cook them “until done”-when a fork easily pierces them to the center.

Types of summer squash

What my mother called summer squash were actually pattypans, apparently the only ones that she knew.

Here is a lexicon of the familiar squashes you might come across in the market:

– Pattypan are small and saucer-shaped with scalloped edges, usually with light green to white skin. Buy ones that are less than 3 inches in diameter. The skin is tender but firm enough to hold its shape if stuffed and baked.

– Scallopini are shaped much like a pattypan, but are speckled green and yellow. The skin is thicker but still tender when cooked.

– Yellow squash can be either straight and cylindrical like zucchini, or can have a curved neck (these are sometimes called “crookneck”) with a slender top and wide bottom. Both varieties have yellow skin, smooth in the straight types, but often pebbly in the crooknecks. The delicate flesh of both becomes mushy if cooked too long.

– Who doesn’t know the zucchini, with its cylindrical body and mottled or striped green skin? One variety is striped green and yellow or is entirely yellow. These are best when harvested very young; older, larger zucchini are watery and tasteless and have a lot of seeds.

Buying squash

Look for small to medium squashes with clear, unblemished skin. The larger they are the less taste they have.

Squash should be firm, not soft and flexible.

Skin should be tender, easily pierced with your fingernail.

Avoid squash with bruises and soft spots.

SUMMER SQUASH SALAD

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

This refreshing and crunchy salad is adapted from “The Victory Garden Fish and Vegetable Cookbook,” by Marion Morash.

1 pound each: yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pound ripe tomatoes

1 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons each: chopped fresh mint, red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1. Wash and dry the yellow squash and zucchini, trim the ends, cut each one lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips and then cut the strips into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl.

2. Peel, halve lengthwise and seed the cucumbers. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips and then into cubes. Put the cucumber in a colander, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and let them drain.

3. Wash and core the tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise, squeeze out the seeds and cut them into 1/2-inch chunks. Add tomatoes, red onion, parsley and mint to the bowl of squash and zucchini.

4. Whisk vinegar into the oil in a small bowl. Pat the cucumbers with paper towels to remove any excess salt and add them to the bowl of vegetables. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

MARINATED ZUCCHINI (ZUCCHINE A SCAPECE)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Drying time: 1 hour

Chilling time: 1 hour or overnight

Yield: 8 to 12 appetizer servings

The vinegar should be best quality. Try substituting balsamic for the red wine vinegar. This dish is better the second day.

6 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch lengthwise slices

Oil for frying

2 tablespoons fresh mint

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1. Spread the zucchini on a towel and let them air dry about 1 hour.

2. Heat several tablespoons of oil in a skillet and fry the zucchini until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

3. In a non-metallic loaf pan or baking dish, layer the zucchini with the mint, chopped garlic and salt, sprinkling the vinegar over the layers as you work. Cover the zucchini and let sit at least 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

SAUTEED ZUCCHINI AND YELLOW SQUASH

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 7 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

This recipe is simple and delicious. Don’t grate the zucchini too far in advance or it will weep water and the dish will be soggy.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 yellow squash (1 pound), grated using the large grater holes

2 zucchini (1 pound), grated using the large grater holes

Salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Heat butter and oil in a wok or large skillet until hot. Add squash and zucchini; cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add salt, pepper, parsley and garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Serve immediately.

CORN AND SUMMER SQUASH CHOWDER

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Yield: 5 cups, or 3 to 4 servings

The flavors in this soup adapted from “The Savory Way,” by Deborah Madison, are exotic but delicious. Serve it hot or cold.

1 quart milk

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen corn, defrosted

4 teaspoons flour

1 piece (2-inch) cinnamon stick

5 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 sprig fresh mint, finely chopped

3 large fresh basil leaves

4 cloves

6 peppercorns

6 coriander seeds

Salt

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely diced

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes

1/2 pound summer squash, zucchini or pattypan

Lime juice

Chopped cilantro, mint leaves for garnish

1. Put half the milk in a blender and add 1 cup of the corn and the flour. Blend 2 minutes or until the texture is smooth. Put the corn mixture in a soup pot with the remaining milk, all of the seasonings, the pepper and the onion. (If you don’t like finding whole spices in the soup, tie them loosely in cheesecloth and then remove them at the end.)

Can You Eat The Skin on All Types of Squash?

Getty Images/ Tomekbudujedomek

It seems daunting to differentiate between which squash varieties can be cooked skin-on and which you need to break out the vegetable peeler for. It’s just not this confusing with other produce items. We peel every kind of citrus fruit, eat all apples skin-on, and remove kiwi’s fuzzy layer—so why do squash have to send us such mixed signals?

Easy never tasted so awesome.

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Well, here’s something you may not know. All squash skin is edible. But in the same way you’re going to toss that banana peel, edible doesn’t necessarily mean you want to eat it. Some squash has thin skin that’s tasty and tender, while others have a tough shell that, even cooked, offers a stringy, chewy bite we opt to avoid. Here are are our favorite squash to cook with, ranked from least-palatable skin to totally delicious peel.

Image zoom Photo: Colin Price; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Spaghetti Squash

You never have to peel a spaghetti squash, but you probably want to avoid eating the skin. Most recipes call for you to bake the squash, sliced down the middle with the shell intact and seeds removed. Once baked, you can use a fork to pull the spaghetti-like strands from the hard shell. Then you’re free to treat the meat like you would pasta, topping it off with a delicious sauce.

Image zoom Photo by Roger Phillips via Getty Images

Butternut Squash

You’re most likely going to want to avoid the skin of a butternut squash and stick to the creamy inside instead. Keep in mind, you may not necessarily need to peel a butternut squash unless the recipe calls for peeled and diced squash. Recipes that call for roasted squash for a puree can be cooked in the skin and scooped out when soft.

Image zoom Getty Images/kittimages

Kabocha

This squash skin may need a little TLC to become totally edible, but if you let it cook long enough in the oven, it becomes soft and supple. However, if you’re just not a fan of the skin and want a more pleasant meal, feel free to peel this skin off before enjoying. Try it sliced with a salty-sweet glaze or as unpeeled wedges over a fall salad.

Image zoom Getty Images/Martin Fredy

Red Kuri

The peel on a red kuri is another variety that’s up to you. Are there recipes that require to skin it? Sure. But there are also plenty that have you roast it skin-on and eat it as a delicious red kuri squash side dish.

Image zoom Photo: Victor Protasio

Acorn Squash

Whether cut into slices or stuffed and baked whole, acorn squash skin is totally tasty to consume. When roasted, the skin becomes soft enough to eat by the forkful, but for those who prefer it skin-free, the meat separates from the peel easily. However, if you’ve never given it a try, we think the skin is totally worth it.

Image zoom Getty Images/ Wally Eberhart

Delicata Squash

Everything about delicata squash is delicious—and edible. You can scoop out the seeds and stuff these babies or slice them into chunks. Just keep in mind their super thin skin doesn’t keep the vegetable fresh as long as a thicker-skinned winter squash. You’ll want to use these up within a week of purchase.

Image zoom Getty Images

Summer Squash

The yellow and green squash you find from late spring to early fall are known most commonly as summer squash. Zucchini, yellow squash, and crookneck squash all have completely edible skin and seeds. Pattypan squash generally has edible skin, but the larger the squash the tougher the skin is. Take the time to roast a larger pattypan so the skin becomes softer, and you may want to remove the large seeds.

A couple years ago an oversight actually turned into a delicious idea. I walked out to my patch of yellow squash plants and found a squash that had become huge. It was about 14 inches long and had a diameter of about 4 inches. As soon as I saw the summer squash I immediately became angry at myself for not checking between the big leaves better for possible pickings. This one had slipped by, and was now probably not worth eating.

Typically when summer squash get too mature (such as this one), they become tough and grainy tasting. They certainly don’t have the same light, buttery taste that I have come to love from yellow summer squash.

I was bent on not trashing the big squash, so I asked my mother what to do with it. She grabbed the huge squash with a “what the..?” look on her face and went to work on concocting a recipe for it. It turned out to be some of the best prepared summer squash I have ever had! Here is the recipe for baked overgrown summer squash:

Baked Overgrown Summer Squash

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 overgrown yellow summer squash, ends removed and halved long ways
  • 2 small spoonfuls of butter per squash half
  • 1 or 2 slices of white onion per squash half
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pam or other non-stick cooking spray
  • Kosher or Sea Salt (regular table salt would be fine, too)
  • Course ground black pepper
  • Garlic and Parsley Powder
  • Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Make sure to thoroughly wash the squash halves, if you haven’t done so already.
  3. Take a baking sheet or pan and place a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom. Spray the foil with Pam or another non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Place the squash halves on the baking sheet, side-by-side.
  5. Take a sharp knife and cut 4 or 5 slits in each squash half, long ways.
  6. Put two spoonfuls of butter on each squash half
  7. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil on each half; use a brush to lightly brush the oil across each squash half (In hindsight, it might be better to add the butter AFTER brushing on the olive oil)
  8. Place 1 or 2 onion slices on each half and sprinkle the halves with the Kosher salt, pepper, garlic and parsley powder. Sprinkle the shredded parmesan cheese on the halves until they are covered.
  9. Place the baking pan into the oven and let cook until cheese has browned; usually 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.

You will know the squash are ready once the cheese has melted, and the onions have become translucent in color. The squash should be soft and tender. You will notice that the slits cut into the squash have opened up, letting all the butter, cheese, and garlic parsley powder seep into the flesh.

You can serve the squash with just about anything, but goes really well with a nice steak or a plateful of ribs. I hope you enjoy my mother’s recipe for overgrown squash. I know I do!

Delicious Yellow Summer Squash

How To Purchase and Prepare Perfect Squash


Check out my large collection of Squash Recipes.

The Definition of Squash: The fruits of various members of the gourd family, which fall into two classifications, summer squash and winter squash.

Did You Know? Every part of the squash plant can be eaten, including the leaves and tender shoots, which can be cooked in omelets or made into soup.

The term summer and winter for squash are only based on current usage, not on actuality. Summer squash types are on the market all winter; and Winter squash types are on the markets in the late summer and fall, as well as winter. Thus, the terms Summer and Winter are deceptive and confusing. This terminology was never meant to confuse – it just dates back to a time when the seasons were more crucial to man’s survival than they are now. Good keepers became known as winter vegetables if they would keep until December.

Winter squash comes in shapes round and elongated, scalloped and pear-shaped with flesh that ranges from golden-yellow to brilliant orange. Most winter squashes are vine-type plants whose fruits are harvested when fully mature. They take longer to mature than summer squash (3 months or more) and are best harvested once the cool weather of fall sets in. They can be stored for months in a cool basement-hence the name Winter squash.

Types of winter squash – The most popular winter squash varieties available:

Winter squash come in many shapes and colors. No two look exactly alike. The different varieties of winter squash may be substituted for each other in your many squash recipes. Winter squash are also packed with antioxidants and vitamins (and have not fats), and can be prepared sweet or savory. Be creative and try different types of winter squash!

Most of the following photos of various types of squash were taken by myself at Sterino Farms and Produce Market in Fife/Tacoma, Washington.

Acorn Squash

Easily found in supermarkets. As the name suggests, this winter squash is small and round shaped like an acorn. One of my favorite baking squashes, it is easy to slice into halves and fill with butter.

A small acorn squash weighs from 1 to 3 pounds, and has sweet, slightly fibrous flesh. It’s distinct ribs run the length of its hard, blackish-green or golden-yellow skin. In addition to the dark green acorn, there are now golden and multi-colored varieties.

Available year round.

Ambercup Squash

A relative of the buttercup squash that resembles a small pumpkin with orange skin. Bright orange flesh has a dry sweet taste. Peel it, cube the flesh, roast it, and serve like cut-up sweet potatoes.

Great texture with no stringyness, is a sweet mild flavor, and is a gorgeous color. Has an extraordinarily long storage life.

Available June to November.

Autumn Cup Squash

A hybrid of Buttercup/Kabocha type dark green squash. Rich flavored flesh and high yields. Fruit size 6 inches with a weight of about 2 to 3 pounds. Flesh is a gorgeous yellow/orange meat that is stringless, sweet, and fine textured.

Excellent storage variety of squash.

Available September through December.

Banana Squash

In shape and skin color, this winter squash is reminiscent of a banana. It grows up to 2 to 3 feet in length and about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. It’s bright orange, finely-textured flesh is sweet tasting. Banana squash is often available cut into smaller pieces.

It is considered top tier among winter squash as it is one of the most versatile squash available.

Available year-round – peak season lasts summer through early fall.

Easily found in supermarkets. Beige colored and shaped like a vase or a bell. This is a more watery squash and tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes. It has a bulbous end and pale, creamy skin, with a choice, fine-textured, deep-orange flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor. Some people say it is like butterscotch. It weighs from 2 to 5 pounds. The oranger the color, the riper, drier, and sweeter the squash. Butternut is a common squash used in making soup because it tends not to be stringy.

Available year-round – peak season lasts from early fall through winter.

Buttercup Squash

Buttercup Squash are part of the Turban squash family (hard shells with turban-like shapes) and are a popular variety of winter squash. This squash has a dark-green skin, sometimes accented with lighter green streaks. Has a sweet and creamy orange flesh. This squash is much sweeter than other winter varieties.

Buttercup Squash can be baked, mashed, pureed, steamed, simmered, or stuffed and can replace Sweet Potatoes in most recipes.

Available year-round – peak season lasts from early fall through winter.

Carnival Squash

Cream colored with orange spots or pale green with dark green spots in vertical stripes. Carnival Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. It is sometimes labeled as a type of acorn squash.

The delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of sweet potatoes and butternut squash and can be baked or steamed then combined with butter and fresh herbs. Also great in soups.

Available year-round – is best late summer through early fall.

Also called Peanut squash and Bohemian squash. This is one of the tastier winter squashes, with creamy pulp that tastes a bit like corn and sweet potatoes. Size may range from 5 to 10 inches in length. The squash can be baked or steamed. The thin skin is also edible.

The delicata squash is actually an heirloom variety, a fairly recent reentry into the culinary world. It was originally introduced by the Peter Henderson Company of New York City in 1894, and was popular through the 1920s. Then it fell into obscurity for about seventy-five years, possibly because of its thinner, more tender skin, which is not suited to transportation over thousands of miles and storage over months.

Available year-round – is best late summer through early fall.

Fairytale Pumpkin Squash

Photo from Highline Community College

French name is Musquee de Provence. The fruits are flattened like a cheese but each rib makes a deep convolution. The Fairytale Pumpkin is a very unique eating and ornamental pumpkin. It is thick but tender, and the deep orange flesh is very flavored, sweet, thick, and firm. It is a 115 to 125 day pumpkin and takes a long time to turn to its cheese color.

The distinctive coach-like shape and warm russet color makes it also perfect for fall decorating. This pumpkin is usually used for baking. Cut it into pieces and bake in the oven.

Available September to November.

Gold Nugget Squash

Photo from Melissa’s Produce

A variety of winter squash, which is sometimes referred to as an Oriental pumpkin that has the appearance of a small pumpkin in shape and color. It ranges in size from one to three pounds. Golden nugget squashes are small, weighing on average about 1 pound. Both the skin and the flesh are orange.

Gold Nugget Squash may be cooked whole or split lengthwise (removing seeds). Pierce whole squash in several places, and bake halved squash hollow side up.

Available year-round – is best season is late summer through early winter.

Hubbard Squash

The extra-hard skins make them one of the best keeping winter squashes. These are very large and irregularly shaped, with a skin that is quite “warted” and irregular. They range from big to enormous, have a blue/gray skin, and taper at the ends. Like all winter squash, they have an inedible skin, large, fully developed seeds that must be scooped out, and a dense flesh. Hubbard squash, if in good condition initially, can be successfully stored 6 months at 50 to 55 degree F. with 70% relative humidity. Hubbard squash is often sold in pieces because it can grow to very large sizes. They are generally peeled and boiled, cut up and roasted, or cut small and steamed or sauteed. This squash is perfect for pies.

Available year-round – peak season is early fall throughout winter.

Kabocha Squash

Also know as a Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkaido, or Japanese Pumpkin. Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash, but refers most commonly to a squash of the buttercup type. This squash has a green, bluish-gray or a deep orange skin, The flesh is deep yellow,

It has a rich sweet flavor, and often dry and flaky when cooked. Use in any dish in which buttercup squash would work.

Available year-round.

Also called vegetable spaghetti, vegetable marrow, or noodle squash. A small, watermelon-shaped variety, ranges in size from 2 to 5 pounds or more. It has a golden-yellow, oval rind and a mild, nutlike flavor. The yellowiest Spaghetti squash will be the ripest and best to eat. Although it may seem counterintuitive, larger spaghetti squash are more flavorful than smaller ones. When cooked, the flesh separates in strands that resemble spaghetti pasta.

Spaghetti Squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. \Spaghetti squash also freezes well.

Available year-round – season early fall through winter.

Sweet Dumpling Squash

This small, mildly sweet-tasting squash resembles a miniature pumpkin with its top pushed in. It has cream-colored skin with green specks. Weighing only about 7 ounces, it has sweet and tender orange flesh and is a great size for stuffing and baking as individual servings.

Sweet dumplings are tiny but great for roasting and presenting whole.

Available throughout the fall.

Turban Squash

Photo from Melissa Produce

Named for its shape. Turban Squash has colors that vary from bright orange, to green or white. It has golden-yellow flesh and its taste is reminiscent to hazelnut. Has a bulb-like cap swelling from its blossom end, come in bizarre shapes with extravagant coloration that makes them popular as harvest ormenentals.

It is popular for centerpieces, and its top can be sliced off so it can be hollowed and filled with soup. A larger variety of the buttercup squash, the turban has a bright orange-red rind. It’s flesh and storage ability are comparable to the buttercup squash. Use in recipes that call or pie or sugar pumpkin.

Available year-round – season is late summer through early fall.

Winter Squash

Winter squash matures on the vine and develops an inedible, thick, hard rind and tough seeds. Choose firm, well-shaped squash that are heavy for their size and have a hard, tough skin. Do not choose those that have sunken or moldy spots. Avoid squash with cuts or punctures in the skin. Also, slight variations in skin color do not affect flavor. A tender rind indicates immaturity, which is a sign of poor quality in winter squash varieties.

To Store Winter Squash:

Place whole winter squash on top of thick pads of newspapers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location, preferably between 45 and 50 degrees F. Check on a regular basis for rot and use within three to six months depending on variety of squash.

Refrigerate tightly wrapped cut pieces of winter squash, such as banana, and use within 5 days.

Once a squash is cooked (by steaming or baking), the flesh of the squash can be stored frozen until needed.

To Prepare and Use Winter Squash:

Look for squash that feels heavy for its size and has hard, deep-colored skin free from blemishes.

All varieties are great for puring, roasting and baking. Once squash is cooked and mashed, it can be used in soups, main dishes, vegetable side dishes, even breads, muffins, custards and pies.

Cooking Winter Squash:

When cooking pumpkin and squash recipes, remember that any sweet, orange-fleshed pumpkin or squash can be substituted for another in recipes.

Winter squash can be cut in halves or pieces.

Dress any cooked winter squash with butter and herbs, a cream sauce, cheese sauce, maple syrup and nuts, marinara sauce or stewed fruit.

Any type of mashed or pureed squash can be used in the place of canned pumpkin in soups, pies, cookies or quick breads. Chunks of squash can be added to soups, stews and casseroles.

Preparing Winter Squash:

To cook them, first remove fibers and seeds. Wash the exterior of the squash just before using. The seeds are scooped out before or after cooking. Then bake, steam, or boil the squash.

Using Water When Cooking Winter Squash: When water is used in cooking the squash, the quantity of water should be kept small to avoid losing flavor and nutrients.

Peeling Winter Squash: Because this rind makes most squash difficult to peel. it is easier to cook the unpeeled squash, and then scoop out the cooked flesh. As many recipes do require peeling (and cutting) first. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin and when cutting hard winter squashes.

Cutting Winter Squash: Winter squash have a hard skin and flesh (this includes acorn, buttercup, butternut, calabaza, delicate, Hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumpling, and Turban, as well as pumpkin). To cut winter squash in half, grasp the squash firmly and use a sharp knife to slice through to the center. Then flip and cut the other side until the squash falls open. Remove and discard the seeds. Hint: Place the whole winter squash in the microwave for 3 minutes; then cut it easily, remove seeds, add butter, etc, and put into hot oven to bake. (Perforate with knife before putting in microwave so it will not explode.)

To Bake Winter Squash:

Using a whole (1 to 1 1/2 pound) winter squash, pierce the rind with a fork and bake in a 350 degree F. oven 45 minutes. Acorn and butternut squash are frequently cut in half, baked, and served in the shell.

Boil or Steam Winter Squash:

Cut into quarters or rings 25 minutes or until tender. Boil or mash winter squash just as you would potatoes. Add peeled squash cubes to your favorite soups, stews, beans, gratins and vegetable ragouts.

To Make Squash Puree:

Cut winter squash (any type) in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in a shallow pan on aluminum foil or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F. until squash is soft, approximately 45 to 60 minutes (depending on the size of your squash). Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, scoop out the cooked flesh/pulp (discarding the shell), place the pulp in a food processor and process until smooth. Measure out the amount you need for your recipe, and reserve any remaining pulp (either in the refrigerator or freeze) for other uses. NOTE: This Squash Puree may be substituted in any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree.

To Microwave Winter Squash:

Place halves or quarters, cut side down, in a shallow dish; add 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly and microwave on HIGH 6 minutes per pound.

Whole Squash – Poke squash all over with a fork. Microwave the squash at full power (High) approximately 5 to 10 minutes (depending on size of squash).

Testing Winter Squash for Doneness:

Test for doneness by piercing with a fork. Fork should easily pierce peel and flesh. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds (if needed), and proceed with recipe or eat.

To Prepare and Use Summer Squash:

Thoroughly scrub each squash under running water until the skin feels clean. Then cut off and discard the stem end and scrape off the other end. Only if the skin is unusually tough or the surface feels especially gritty after washing, is it necessary to peel the squash. Most summer squash is now ready to be used in any recipe. Depending on your recipe, you may grate, slice, or cut into pieces of various shapes.
To steam summer squash:

Arrange the slices/pieces of squash in a strainer or rack over 1/2-inch of boiling water. Cover and steam just until barely tender. Remove from heat and drain well. Toss with melted butter or your favorite sauce.

To saute summer squash:

Cook in butter over medium-high heat until barely tender. Season with herbs of your choice, salt, and pepper.

Squash Equivalents:

1/3 to 1/2 pound raw unpeeled squash = 1 serving

1 pound peeled squash = 1 cup cooked, mashed

2-1/2 pounds whole squash = 2-3/4 to 3 cups pureed

1 pound trimmed squash = 2 cups cooked pieces

1 pound squash = 2 to 3 servings

12 ounces frozen squash = 1-1/2 cups

1 medium-size (15 to 20 pounds) pumpkin = 5 to 7 quarts of cooked pumpkin.

Favorite Squash Recipes:

Check out all my many Squash Recipes.

Remember that different types of winter squash may be substituted for each other in your favorite squash recipes.

Freezing Squash:

(Cocozelle, Crookneck, Pattypan, Straightneck, White Scallop, Zucchini)

Freezing Summer Squash:

Choose young squash with tender skin.Wash and cut in 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.Grated Zucchini (for Baking) – Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts into containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze.If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.

Freezing Winter Squash:

Wash and cut squash into small pieces, remove seeds and peel. Cook until soft. Mash pulp or put through sieve. Cool by placing pan containing squash over crushed ice and stir until cool. Place in an appropriate freeze bag, or container, with 1/2-inch headspace; freeze.

Toasted Squash and Pumpkin Seeds:

Squash and Pumpkin seeds are a great healthy snack and a delicious addition to salads, granola or trail mix. According to the University of South Carolina’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program, winter squash is low in calories and fat, and rich in antioxidants, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals.

Different ways to clean seeds:

Separate the squash or pumpkin seeds from the stringy membrane of a freshly opened squash. Rinse the seeds in a colander until they are free of any membrane matter. Spread the seeds on clean kitchen towels or layer of paper towels and dry thoroughly.

Throw the whole mess (fibers and seeds) in the oven and once they are dried out, the seeds separates very easily. If you want to use this technique, roast the fibers and seeds together, spread in an even layer on a baking sheet, at 375 degrees F. until the fibers dry out and fall away from the seeds

Roasting or toast seeds:

Coat 1/2 cup of cleaned seeds with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning of your choice. You only need enough oil to barely coat the seeds, otherwise, they will be greasy. You can use any seasoning blend you like. Adjust the amount to your taste buds.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Spread prepared seeds out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Place in 250 degree F. oven for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. They are done when they are light brown in the toasted. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

You can eat the seeds whole (hull and all) or crack them to remove the inside.

Additional seasoning ideas:

Try additional seasonings on your squash or pumpkin seeds: Cajun seasoning, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic salt are some of the many possibilities.

Storing Roasted Seeds:

Store baked squash or pumpkin seeds in an airtight container.

Substitute them in for your usual nut or seed topping.

Sources:

The Sweet & Savory Sides of Winter Squash, by Ris Lacoste, Taunton Press.

The Squash Cookbook, by Yvonne Young Tarr, Wings Books.

What’s Cooking America kitchen with Linda Stradley.

Winter Squash Good Keepers in Produce Department, by Patricia Aaron, Sept. 24, 2003.

Wonderful Winter Squash, by Terra Brockman, Conscious Choice, October 2002.

Summer squash (also known as vegetable or Italian marrow), is a tender, warm-season vegetable that can be grown throughout the United States anytime during the warm, frost-free season. Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash in that it is selected to be harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. It grows on bush-type plants that do not spread like the plants of fall and winter squash and pumpkin. A few healthy and well-maintained plants produce abundant yields.

Recommended Varieties

Summer squash appears in many different fruit shapes and colors:

Scallop or Patty Pan is round and flattened like a plate with scalloped edges, usually white but sometimes yellow or green.

Constricted neck is thinner at the stem end than the blossom end, classified as either “crookneck” or “straightneck” depending on if the stem end is straight or bent, and is usually yellow.

Cylindrical to club-shaped Italian marrows, such as zucchini, cocozelle and caserta, are usually shades of green, but may be yellow or nearly white.

The varietal selection of summer squash has markedly changed in recent years and the number of varieties offered has greatly expanded as the result of new interest, hybridization and introduction of disease resistance. The number of varieties is staggering. Recommended varieties of summer squash include:

Zucchini (Open Pollinated)

Black Zucchini (best known summer squash; greenish black skin, white flesh)

Black Beauty (slender, with slight ridges, dark black-green)

Cocozelle (dark green overlaid with light green stripes; long, very slender fruit)

Vegetable Marrow White Bush (creamy greenish color, oblong shape)

Zucchini (hybrid)

Aristocrat (All America Selection winner; waxy; medium green)

Chefini (AAS winner; glossy, medium dark green)

Classic (medium green; compact, open bush)

Elite (medium green; lustrous sheen; extra early; open plant)

Embassy (medium green, few spines, high yield)

President (dark green, light green flecks; upright plant)

Spineless Beauty (medium dark green; spineless petioles)

Golden Zucchini (hybrid)

Gold Rush (AAS winner, deep gold color, superior fruit quality, a zucchini not a straightneck)

Yellow Crookneck

Early Yellow Summer Crookneck (classic open-pollinated crookneck; curved neck; warted; heavy yields)

Sundance (hybrid; early; bright yellow, smooth skin)

Yellow Straightneck

Early Prolific Straightneck (standard open-pollinated straightneck, light cream color, attractive straight fruit)

Goldbar (hybrid; golden yellow; upright, open plant)

Scallop

White Bush Scallop (old favorite Patty Pan type, very pale green when immature, very tender)

Peter Pan (hybrid, AAS winner, light green)

Scallopini (hybrid, AAS winner)

Sunburst (hybrid, bright yellow, green spot at the blossom end)

Other

Butter Blossom (an open-pollinated variety selected for its large, firm male blossoms; fruit may be harvested like summer squash, but remove female blossoms for largest supply of male blossoms)

Gourmet Globe (hybrid; globe-shaped; dark green, with light stripes; delicious)

Sun Drops (hybrid, creamy yellow, unique oval shape, may be harvested as baby with blossoms attached).

When to Plant

Plant anytime after the danger of frost has passed, from early spring until midsummer. Some gardeners have two main plantings – one for early summer harvest and another for late summer and fall harvest.

Spacing & Depth

Sow two or three seeds 24 to 36 inches apart for single-plant production, or four or five seeds in hills 48 inches apart. Cover one inch deep. When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to one vigorous plant or no more than two or three plants per hill.

Care

Any well-drained garden soil produces excellent yields of summer squash. Certain mulches increase earliness and yields, because the roots are shallow.

Harvesting

Because summer squash develop very rapidly after pollination, they are often picked when they are too large and overmature. They should be harvested when small and tender for best quality. Most elongated varieties are picked when they are 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Patty Pan types are harvested when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Slightly larger fruit may be salvaged by hollowing out and using them for stuffing. These larger fruits may also be grated for baking in breads and other items. Do not allow summer squash to become large, hard and seedy because they sap strength from the plant that could better be used to produce more young fruit. Pick oversized squash with developed seeds and hard skin and throw them away. Go over the plants every 1 or 2 days. Squash grow rapidly; especially in hot weather and are usually ready to pick within 4 to 8 days after flowering.

Although summer squash has both male and female flowers, only the female flowers produce fruits. Because the fruits are harvested when still immature, they bruise and scratch easily. Handle with care and use immediately after picking. Be careful when picking summer squash, as the leafstalks and stems are prickly and can scratch and irritate unprotected hands and arms. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to harvest and wear gloves if possible. Some gardeners also pick the open male and female blossoms before the fruits develop. Especially the female blossoms, with tiny fruit attached, are a delicacy when dipped in a batter and fried.

Common Problems

Cucumber beetlesattack seedlings, vines and both immature and mature fruits. They can be controlled with a suggested insecticide applied weekly either as a spray or dust. Be alert for an infestation of cucumber beetles in early September because these beetles can damage the mature fruits.

For more information on cucumber beetles, see our feature in the Bug Review.

Squash bugsattack vines as the fruit begin to set and increase in numbers through the late summer, when they can be quite damaging to maturing fruit. They hatch and travel in groups, which seem to travel in herds until they reach maturity. Using the proper insecticide when the numbers of this pest are still small minimizes damage.

For more information on squash bugs, see our feature in the Bug Review.

Questions & Answers

Q. Will summer squash cross with winter squash?

A. Summer squash varieties can cross with one another, with acorn squash and with jack-o’-lantern pumpkins. Cross-pollination is not evident in the current crop, but the seed should not be sown for the following year. Summer squash does not cross with melons or cucumbers.

Selection & Storage

Most people harvest summer squash too late. Like winter squash, summer squash is an edible gourd. Unlike winter squash, it is harvested at the immature stage. Ideally, summer squash should be harvested at 6 to 8 inches in length. Pattypan and scallopini are ready when they measure about 3 to 4 inches in diameter or less. Tiny baby squash are delicious too. Large rock-hard squashes serve a better purpose on the compost heap than in the kitchen.

Cut the squash from the vine using a sharp knife or pruning shears to avoid damaging the plant. Summer squash vines are very prolific, the more harvest the greater the yield. The most important characteristic to remember is that summer squash is best when immature, young and tender.

In this section, summer squash varieties will be limited to zucchini, yellow squash (crooked and straight), pattypan which is also call scalloped and scallopini. Because summer squash is immature, the skin is very thin and susceptible to damage. Handle with care. The average family only needs to plant one or two of each variety. Over planting usually leads to hoards of huge inedible fruit and/or scouring the neighborhood for people to take the surplus.

To store summer squash, harvest small squash and place, unwashed in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Wash the squash just before preparation. As with most vegetables, water droplets promote decay during storage. The storage life of summer squash is brief, so use within two to three days.

Squash Blossoms

Squash blossoms are edible flowers, raw or cooked. Both summer and winter squash blossoms can be battered and fried in a little oil for a wonderful taste sensation. Harvest only the male blossoms unless the goal is to reduce production. Male blossoms are easily distinguished from the female blossoms. The stem of the male blossom is thin and trim. The stem of the female blossom is very thick. At the base of the female flower below the petals is a small bulge, which is the developing squash.

Always leave a few male blossoms on the vine for pollination purposes. There are always many more male flowers than female. Harvest only the male squash blossoms unless you are trying to reduce production. The female blossom can be harvested with a tiny squash growing at the end and used in recipes along with full blossoms. Use the blossom of any variety of summer or winter squash in your favorite squash blossom recipe.

Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut squash blossoms at midday when the petals are open, leaving one inch of stem. Gently rinse in a pan of cool water and store in ice water in the refrigerator until ready to use. The flowers can be stored for a few hours or up to 1 or 2 days. If you’ve never eaten squash blossoms, you are in for a treat. A recipe for Stuffed Squash Blossoms is in the recipe portion of this section.

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

Because summer squash is immature, they are considerably lower in nutritional value than their winter counterparts. Generally, there is little variation in nutritional value between varieties. The peel is where many of the nutrients hide, so never peel summer squash.

Nutrition Facts (1 cup sliced, raw zucchini)

Calories 16
Protein 1.31 grams
Carbohydrates 3.27 grams
Dietary Fiber 1.36 grams
Calcium 16.95
Potassium 280.24
Vitamin A 384 IU
Folate 24.93 mcg

Preparation & Serving

Summer squash can be grilled, steamed, boiled, sauteed, fried or used in stir fry recipes. They mix well with onions, tomatoes and okra in vegetable medleys. Summer squash can be used interchangeably in most recipes. Tiny baby squash can be used as appetizers, or left whole and sauteed with other vegetables.

Don’t waste male squash blossoms by leaving them in the garden. If you do not have the time or inclination to prepare them separately, toss them in the salad bowl or add to any squash preparation.

Home Preservation

Canning is not recommended because the tender summer squash will simply turn to mush during processing, unless you are making pickles. Zucchini can be substituted for cucumbers in some pickle recipes. The results are especially good in your favorite recipes for Bread and Butter Pickles.

Blanch and freeze cubes or slices of summer squash or grate and freeze Zucchini, unblanched for making Zucchini bread. The best way to use over grown (10 to 12 inches) zucchini is to grate it and use in zucchini bread. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and cut away the seedy middle section. Wash, grate and freeze in one cup portions. Use zip closure freezer bags or rigid freezer containers leaving 1/2 inch head space. Over size zucchini can also be used to make canned zucchini chutney. The over 12-inch monsters should go on the compost heap.

Recipes

Herbs and spices that enhance the flavor of summer squash include marjoram, cumin seeds, parsley, dill, rosemary and savory. Too many herbs and spices mask the delicate flavor of summer squash so use herbs and spices sparingly. Since so many requests come in for recipes for summer squash, several are included in this section.

Zucchini Carrot Bread

To use frozen grated zucchini in bread, thaw the package in a pan of cold water, squeeze out excess water and precede with the recipe. Omit the carrot and substitute 1/2 cup zucchini or other squash, if desired.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Powdered Sugar (optional)

  1. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, beat the egg, add the oil, grated zucchini, and grated carrots. Mix well.

  3. Add the zucchini mixture and nuts to the flour mixture. Stir only until all the flour is incorporated. Do not over mix or the bread will be dry and chewy.

  4. Scrape the batter into a well greased 9-inch bread pan and bake in a preheated 375° oven for 50 minutes.

  5. Remove from the oven and let the bread cool in the pan 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack or plate. Serve warm or cool and dust with powdered sugar. Makes one 9-inch loaf.

Summer Garden Vegetable Medley

This recipe includes many of the vegetables found in your garden. Substitute yellow squash for zucchini or a combination of both. Add carrots, or eggplant or whatever you have in the garden.

3 medium zucchini (7 to 8 inches) or 5 small (4 to 5 inches)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bell pepper or any pepper variety, seeded & cut into strips
6 trimmed, thinly sliced green onions with tops included
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Wash and thinly slice squash and set aside. Prepare all other vegetables and set aside.

  2. To toast cumin seeds. Heat a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the cumin seeds and shake the skillet periodically. When their aroma begins to be noticed, after about 5 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat. Pour seeds into a mortar, allow to cool then grind. Or use a spice grinder.

  3. Heat a non-stick skillet or wok over medium heat. Add oil. When oil is very hot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add zucchini and tomatoes and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

  4. Sprinkle with ground cumin, salt and pepper, stir. Serve hot or cold. Makes 6 servings.

Spicy Squash Cakes

This recipe works well with a combination of zucchini and pattypan or yellow squash. Temper the fieriness of the jalapenos by adjusting the amount or by removing the seeds and white membrane. Prepare small cakes for an appetizer or larger ones as a side dish or serve with crusty bread and tomato salsa for a full meal. The salsa recipe is in the section on tomatoes.

1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites or use 3 eggs
4 cups grated summer squash
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cut from 2 ears
1/4 cup chopped green onions, tops included
1 large jalapeno pepper, chopped
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or black pepper
Canola oil for sauteing
Low-fat sour cream (optional)
Fresh tomato salsa (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in squash, corn, green onions, jalapeno, the cheeses, flour, olive oil and ground pepper.

  2. Heat two tablespoons canola oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. For small cakes, spoon one tablespoon squash mixture per cake into the hot oil and flatten to uniform thickness. For large cakes, use two tablespoons of squash mixture per cake. Do not over crowd the skillet. Leave about an inch between cakes.

  3. Cook until edges turn golden brown, turn and cook the other side until golden brown, about three minutes total cooking time per cake. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Place in a warm oven and continue cooking the remaining cakes.

  4. To serve, arrange two or more cakes on individual plates. Serve with some of the salsa and a dollop of low-fat sour cream. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Serves 6.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Read the section on “Squash Blossoms” before you go charging out to the garden. Use your favorite bread or meat stuffing or use the ricotta/mushroom stuffing below. Or skip the stuffing, and simply batter the blossoms and fry. The batter must be chilled for 30 minutes. Or it can be made in advance and refrigerate it for up to two days. If it is too thick after refrigeration, add a few drops of water to return to original consistency.

The Batter

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free chilled milk, beer or water

The Stuffing

1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 tablespoon mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoons fresh basil or parsley, minced
16 large squash blossoms, washed
Canola oil for frying

  1. Prepare the batter first. Sift together dry ingredients, then whisk in milk, beer or cold water until smooth. Cover and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Leftover batter can be stored for up to two days.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing. In a bowl combine the ricotta cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, mushrooms and basil. Open the blossoms and spoon about one 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture into the center of each. Avoid overfilling the blossoms. Twist the top of each blossom together to close. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

  3. Pour the oil into a skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat over high heat until a small cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown within seconds.

  4. Briefly dip each stuffed blossom into the batter, then carefully slip into the hot oil. Cook until golden on all sides, about three minutes total cooking time. Add only as many blossoms at a time as will fit comfortably in the skillet. Transfer with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain briefly.

  5. Sprinkle with salt, if desired and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Yellow Bumpy Squash: Why Is My Squash Bumpy

Squash come in a wide array of colors, sizes and textures. There are very soft and very hard skinned varieties, with smooth, ridged and warty shells. The most common and versatile squash are the zucchini and yellow summer squash varieties. While yellow, bumpy squash occur when summer varieties are left on the vine too long, there are other reasons for bumpy squash. Normally smooth zucchini and other varieties can produce a squash that is warty looking due to several diseases and pest problems.

Why is My Squash Bumpy?

You are in the zucchini patch and see that the squash is warty looking and knotty. This leads to the question, why is my squash bumpy? Squash are cucurbits and fall in a family that includes cucumbers, melons and pumpkins.

Fruits in the cucurbit family are plagued by several different viruses, which can cause lumpy squash plants. Usually the foliage goes unaffected for quite some time, while the forming fruits get knots and bumps in the skin. The texture of smooth skinned squashes is rough and patchy. Some of the diseases that cause these symptoms are viruses found in soil and some come from insect vectors.

Reasons for Bumpy Squash

Rapid growth, boring insects and excess calcium in soil may contribute to lumpy squash plants. However, the majority of these fruit deformities are the result of a mosaic virus. There are many types of mosaic strains that occur in different fruit families. The cucumber mosaic virus is the variety that most commonly attacks the cucurbit family. There is also the watermelon mosaic, papaya ring spot and zucchini yellow mosaic.

Cucumber mosaic affects summer squash and produces raised, yellow bumpy squash and warty regions on the fruit’s skin. Watermelon mosaic affects both winter and summer squash. Summer squash get green overgrowths on the exterior, while winter squash grow knobby protrusions.

Papaya ring spot produces malformations on the skin with color breaks over the surface. Zucchini yellow mosaic affects zucchini and results in distorted fruits and the squash is warty looking.

Preventing Lumpy Squash Plants

  • The only sure way to prevent your squash crop from getting one of the viruses is to purchase resistant seed or starts. You can also make sure you plant before the aphid season, as these little pests are vectors of some diseases.
  • Control weeds, apply mulch and take excellent care of the plants to give them enough vigor to withstand disease.
  • You can also avoid some transmission by washing tools used around the squash patch and planting a wheat or grain crop around the squash plot. This gives aphids something else to munch on and they may wipe the virus off on the cover crop rather than the squash.

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