When you hear the term summer squash, you might think of the yellow squash available year-round at the supermarket. Expand your horizons this growing season with some of our summer squash favorites; there are a number of other varieties of summer squash—and they're all prolific producers in the summer months and easy to grow. The more you pick, the more these plants produce.
Summer Squash Varieties
This summer squash has the same flavor as zucchini and yellow summer squash, but it has a nice bicolor finish. Cook zephyr in place of typical squash in your favorite dishes—you can even eat the flowers! The blossoms have a mild squash flavor and are a great addition to soups, salads, and pasta dishes.
One of the most common summer squashes on the market is zucchini. Zucchini is the hottest new trend in cooking when formed into "zoodles," which is short for zucchini noodles. Zoodles are a low-starch, low-carb substitute for pasta and spaghetti. Zucchini work well in all sorts of Italian dishes and can take on many different flavor profiles.
This summer squash is known for its flying saucer-like shape and comes in beautiful white, yellow, and orange colors. This variety is as tasty as can be—simply slice pattypan into pie-like pieces and either steam, bake, or roast for a wonderful squash dish.
Planting Your Squash
All of these summer squashes are grown on vining or trailing plants. Sometimes these plants are bushy, but either way the plants can take up quite a lot of space. They're heavy producers, so you don't need to plant a lot of seeds. The more you pick squash, the more the plant will produce!
The best way to grow squash is to plant 4 or 5 seeds on a hill or in rows. Thin them out by snipping out the extra plants you don't want, and then let the remaining grow to full size.
If you have a small garden, try the zucchini and squash varieties that grow in a bush form—just make sure to look for sizes that are meant to grow smaller. These bushy varieties are good for containers, and you will get a lot of produce from one container. You can also grow the vegetable up instead of out by training them on a trellis. This will decrease the amount of space you need to grow them.
Growing Summer Squash
The best way to get the most squash out of your plant is to take your finger or a paintbrush and pollinate the plants as a bee would do. All of those pollinated flowers will turn into a fruit.
Water your squash regularly once a week very deeply around the roots. Don't spray water directly on the plants, as you want to avoid mildew and other fungi that will harm plant production.
When growing zucchini and summer squash, be careful with the skins—they are fragile! If you are looking to keep them around for a while, make sure the squashes don't have any breaks or damage in the skin, which will speed up the rotting process.
How to Harvest
You will know squashes are ready to harvest when you can pierce the skin easily with your fingernail. Once you pierce it, though, you'll want to cook and prepare it immediately. An optimum size to harvest summer squash is when the fruit reaches about 6 inches. When picking the fruit off of the vines, make sure to cut the plants instead of tugging them off, which will damage both the fruit and the plant in the ground.
Fixing Pest Problems
Summer squash can be susceptible to many pests, such as vine borer and cucumber beetles. Keep an eye out for these types of pests and look for organic ways to solve the problem. If you do find you have pests in your squash crop, rotate your crops to different soil the next year in case the previous year's beetles are still hanging out in the soil. This will make it harder for the pests to find these plants later on.
Yummy Cooking Tips
All of these squashes are beautiful and extremely versatile when cooking. They make a great base to dishes, so it's easy to add all sorts of different spice combinations. You can use squashes in Italian, Mexican, Asian, and Middle-Eastern dishes. Picking squashes when they are small is actually the best way to use them, as you'll get more flavor out of the fruit.