The Squashes of Summer
Ahh, late summer; a time when everything comes bursting forth from the garden..esp SUMMER SQUASH!
Last year we had a summer squash crisis. That’s right, assuming we’d be up to our ears in zucchinis and yellow squash, we planted just a few. Then…we lost nearly all. Losing plants due to not planting out soon enough, then flooding, then some pest and disease pressure meant I was anxiously watching every tiny baby squash and snatching it up to hand off to our CSA members as soon as possible. This year, I was NOT taking chances! I planted a myriad of varieties and colors and have been rewarded for my efforts with boat loads of tender squashes to share heartily.
Now, what is the difference between a summer squash and a winter squash? It essentially comes down to hardiness and skin type. All are members of the cucurbit family (along with, you guessed it, cucumbers and even melons). These plants generally grow in a vining habit or large bush (as most summer varitiest do), producing male and female flowers (the female variety being on the end of the fruit). These flowers are generally only ‘open’ when out of the sunlight making pollination and thus, pollinators very important. The flowers are also edible and can be stuffed and fried to your heart’s content (check the web, there are about a million recipes for stuffed squash blossoms).
This means that generally, anything called a “zucchini’, pattypan, or yellow squash, is considered a summer squash. Even Delicata, which can store for a while, is technically considered a summer squash as the skin is edible. However, for our purposes, we’re gonna leave those out to go hang with their winter buddies. They’ll have their time soon enough.
Unlike their thick skinned counterparts, summer squashes have a tender outer skin that makes them entirely edible… but also entirely unfit for storing. This means that when the squash is good, it’s up to you to do your best to eat it, or preserve it. We personally grow five varieties of summer squash, a traditional large green zucchini, a smaller Italian heirloom with beautiful light green ribbing (which I find hold their flowers longer and are best picked small when the flower is still attached), as well as two varieties of yellow squash (really, just different shapes) and a little yellow patty pan.
Here I will be sharing some of my favorite, more traditional ways to eat these. However, I’ve recently been playing with new and inventive ways to add summer squash (which from here out I will refer to as SS as I am lazy) into different dishes. I’m happy to share some of my new finds with you here, as well as others’ recipes for how to properly store and preserve these gems of summer.
So here’s to the squash of summer! May you pick it often and nar forget about it (least be left with a search of the internet “how to make a zucchini canoe”)!
I don’t can. I’d like to can, I have canned, but I quite simply do not have the time at the moment. So while I am no expert on this practice, there certainly are many others out there who have some excellent recipes and methods for preserving your squash this way. Check out this recipe to learn more.
I hope this strikes you with the inspiration you need to use that squash in new and inventive ways. I have included a few more excellent recipes just in case you need them: two I recently made and two additional ones to try.
Cheers, Prost and Slainte Mhath!
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