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Summer squashes are part of the gourd family that includes winter squash, cucumbers, melons, and gourds (inedible squashes). Unlike winter squash, summer squash are harvest before maturity when they are small, soft-skinned and tender inside. Because of this, they have to be kept refrigerated. Fresh summer squash can last about two weeks in the fridge. Summer squash grows on a bush-type plant instead of a vine (like winter squashes).

There are many hybrid varieties of summer squash that vary in shape and color, but all of them have such similar taste and texture that they can be used interchangeably in recipes, skin and all. Summer squash are delicious raw, sautéed, steamed, baked, roasted and grilled. Welcome to Summer’s prolific low-calorie snack food!

Overviewsummer squash varieties, zucchini, crookneck, patty pan, scallopini, globe

Learn about the differences between popular varieties of summer squash by their picture and description.

How To

Differentiate BetweenVarieties:

Chayote
Cucuzza
Globe
Golden Zucchini
Patty Pan
Yellow Crookneck/Straighneck
Zucchini

Chayote
A.k.a.: christophene, mirliton, and vegetale pear.

Chayote (cha-yo-te: rhymes with coyote) is an increasingly popular squash that is best known in Southwest America and Mexico. It differs from other summer squash with its unique shape and large central seed. The seed has a slight almond taste and can be eaten. The peel can be eaten if young and tender or peeled if older or thick. Chayote is best cooked, as it tends to be a little slimy raw. It takes longer to cook than other summer squash. It also grows on a vine.

Cucuzza
Aka: bottle gourd

Cucuzza are an Italian squash and can grow up to 3 feet long, although they are best tasting when they are small, about 1 foot or less. They are the shape of a bowling pin.

Globe
Aka: round zucchini, eight ball

Globe, or round zucchini are the size of a pool/cue ball. They come in many colors including dark green, sea green, golden,and speckled green. These hybrids can sometimes have air pockets or little hollow spaces in the middle when they get too large, so they are best when picked small.

Golden Zucchini
Aka: gold bar, gold rush

Golden zucchini are beautiful, deep-yellow zucchinis with a dark green stem. Sweet and dense, they taste exactly like green zucchini.

Patty Pan
Aka: sunburst, scallopini, peter pan, scallop, white

These fun UFO-shaped squashes come in a variety of colors including gold with dark green tips (sunburst), sea green (peter pan), light yellow, dark green, white, and speckled. Crisp and sweet, they are good raw or stuffed and create fun slices for steaming or baking.Patty pans are best tasting when they are 5-7 inches wide or smaller.

Yellow Crookneck & Straightneck

Perhaps the second most popular summer squash after zucchini are yellow crookneck and yellow straightneck. They are solid light yellow. Some varieties of crooknecks have bumps or warts on them. Straightnecks are shaped like small bowling pins. They are best harvested at lengths of 6 inches or shorter.

Zucchini
Aka: courgette (European name for zucchini)

The plain green zucchini is a prolific producer and the most popular summer squash in the US. Of course there are many varieties and colors of zucchini, including gadzukes, which are two-toned green with raised ribs that make star shapes when sliced. Baby zucchinis (2-3 inches) are also sold as a delicacy, sometimes with the blossoms still attached. Whole cookbooks have been dedicated to the humble zucchini, due mainly to the abundance that a single plant can produce.

Tips

  • Water content: All summer squash have high water content (95%), which is part of what makes them low in calories. You can remove some of this liquid if desired by grating and squeezing the grated pulp with your hands before cooking or adding to baked goods.
  • Vitamin content: Although not a nutrient-dense food, summer squash, especially when eaten raw is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Juicing: Try adding a summer squash to your fresh carrot or mixed veggie juice.
  • Blossoms: Squash blossoms are a delicacy. They taste slightly like the squash itself. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, stuffed, or deep fried in batter. Try to pick only the male blossoms that grow from the longer stem and do not have the “ovary” center at the bottom.
  • Prickly hairs are commonly found on summer squash. Ones that you see in the market have already been brushed off. If you grow your own, you can lightly brush them with a cloth to remove the protective hairs. If you are handling a lot of squash, it is best to wear soft gloves to protect your hands.
  • Chinese melons: Chinese squash are called melons but they are not sweet like melons and treated more like a summer squash. Types of Chinese squash or melons include bitter melon, fuzzy/hairy melon, luffa, opo, and winter melon (which is more like an un-sweet watermelon that can grow up to 100 pounds).
  • Small & firm: is best when it comes to selecting or harvesting summer squash.
  • Baseball bat squashes: What to do with those forgotten zucchinis that are now enormous?
    • If they are too big (i.e. the skin is so tough that it is hard to cut) then they are not great for eating anymore. However, I like to hollow out the seed cavities from the two halves and use then as “appetizer bowls” for olives or veggie sticks when I have company.
    • If they are medium-large zucchini that are not too tough, they can be wonderful stuffed. Simply cut in half the long way, bake in a shallow water bath until tender, scoop out the pulp (but leave a ½-1 inch border), and fill with grain or bread stuffing. The removed pulp can be added to the stuffing if desired.

Resources

Wellness Foods A-Z, Sheldon Margen and UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

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