Plant Sale Varieties
I get a bit obsessed with Summer Squash - and we offer over 20 varieties.
Over the past 12 years, I've been actively experimenting with different varieties, and as long time customers of our plant sale would attest, there were probably too many varieties offered!
This year I am making a real push to consolidate into a curated and tried & tested group of great Summer Squash that do well in this area. Many are from our own saved seed, so they are really becoming well adapted to this local climate.
We have a collection of zucchinis ranging from a light green, to a striped, to a ribbed, to a medium, and to a dark - almost black! I also love patty pans or scallop squash - they have firmer flesh than zucchinis and when sliced horizontally, make wonderful flower shapes for grilling... Patty Pans come in a huge variety of colors. I wouldn't even garden without being able to grow zephyr squash - they are a bi-colored light green and yellow crookneck with super-tender skin and wonderful flavor. And same goes for the trombicino - I just adore these giant squashes that just pop with buttery flavor when sautéed.
There are two main types of squash - summer and winter.
The summer squash include the classic green zucchini as well as other tender skinned fresh eating squash like Patty Pans or Scallop Squash, yellow squash, crookneck squash, trombincinos, etc. Summer squash are great for grilling, sautéing, making zucchini bread, and eating shaved and fresh in salads.
Summer Squash are Quick Crops
It is best to stagger plantings throughout the middle of May until the middle of June. This acts as a timing strategy allowing for losses due to weather related problems as well as insect problems. When all falls into place well, Summer Squash are easy, carefree, and prolific. A Summer Squash plant lives only about 3 months - soaking in the summer sun and heat with their large leaves and continually producing squash flowers and fruits.
Bush vs. Vine
I grow and offer mostly bush styled summer squash, because they are easier to keep track of and take up less room. The one summer squash that I offer that is a vine style is the Trombicino - it is worth the extra space! I usually plant them at the end of the rows so they can climb up onto the fencing, which gives me more soil space...
A Note on the Differences Between Summer and Winter Squash
Winter Squash grow for the entire summer and start producing fruits toward the end of their life span. This makes them a harder crop to grow as you have to care for the plants a lot longer before seeing any harvest. All kinds of things can go wrong before you even see a squash starting to grow. Winter Squash include pumpkins and all the other hard skinned storage style squash with dark sweet flesh, like acorns, butternuts, delicata, etc.
Harvesting your Summer Squash
Harvesting is the main maintenance requirement!
Be sure to harvest regularly and before the squash get too large. Large squash are seedy and pithy. Most importantly, the plant will slow down in production if it is allowed to make a big seed-full squash. I tend to allow for bigger and bigger growth as the season continues, picking "baby" squash at first, then medium sized squash and larger as the summer wanes on. The larger squash, with more developed seeds, makes great zucchini bread, and I also will grate and freeze the squash in zucchini bread potions for the fall.
Summer Squash are also greatly rewarding - you get pounds of food from one plant. And they add substance to a meal.
Many of the heirloom varieties are buttery tasting and superb both in flavor and texture when freshly harvested. If you have had bad squash dishes, it is probably because the squash was overcooked. I add the squash at the end of the cooking time or grill them on a very hot grill, just to get the char lines. Quick is best when cooking Summer Squash. Check out some of our favorite Summer Squash recipes:
Grilled Summer Squash with Spanish-Style Olive Reduction