If you have ever seen something that looks like a tiny UFO in the squash and pumpkin section of the market, then you have already seen a starburst squash. One of the several varieties of starburst squashes is Flying Saucer, and it is aptly named, don’t you think so? Other varieties include Peter Pan, Scallopini, and Sunny Delight.
Starburst squash is a cultivar of summer squash. It is also called pattypan and scallop squash because of its scalloped edges. It is commonly yellow, but there are also green and white starburst squashes, and these have a green ring at the center.
Species: C. pepo
Binomial name: Cucurbita pepo
Botanical name: Cucurbita pepo var. clypeata
Starburst Squash Trivia
- It is common to look at pumpkin or squash flowers as something that is edible, but we have to be careful because there are starburst squash cultivars that bear non-edible flowers, according to Texas Tech University.
- A squash plant, like starburst squash, is typically grown as a source of food, but another advantage of growing starburst squash is having a fast-growing screening plant if ever you need one.
- Sunburst squash, which, like starburst squash has a name referencing a celestial body, is a hybrid starburst squash variety.
Starburst Squash Buying Guide
It is common to find starburst squash in the market starting in May through September. When buying starburst squash, choose small or medium-sized starburst squashes and be on the lookout for spots, bruises, or cuts on the surface. These may have been damaged during harvest, transport, or stocking.
Starburst Squash Production & Farming in Texas
In Texas, plant starburst squash from mid-March until the first week of May. Fall crop is planted beginning in the second week of July until the first week of September. Plant after the danger of frost has passed. Ideally, the soil temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit when you start planting.
Starburst squash is easy to grow and produces a good yield. Starburst squash can grow in the U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 through 9. This means it can grow anywhere in Texas. The hardiness zone spectrum covering Texas ranges from 6 to 9B. It will do well if you plant it in soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.
To grow starburst squash plants, you will need to plant them in well-draining soil and where they can have full sun. Sow the seeds directly when the soil is warm the ideal depth is 30mm. These plants will require moderate watering. They will soon produce large, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. Expect to harvest starburst squashes 45 to 70 days after sowing. Harvest starburst squash while these are still young and immature. Trisha Shirley, in her 2020 book Grow Great Vegetables in Texas, recommends picking “patty pan when it is 3–5 inches across” because “larger fruits will stress the plants and lower yields.” Be careful when harvesting starburst squash. It has thorny leaves that will definitely cause you some discomfort at the very least, so make sure to wear protective gloves and harvest using shears.
Starburst squashes are annual plants. These plants can spread to as wide as 20 feet. They are frost hardy and they have a high heat tolerance. Starburst squash plants will not easily die at the first sign of drought although prolonged drought may harm your starburst squash plant, including losing flowers and fruits.
Watch out for signs of powdery mildew, downy mildew, or anthracnose, to which starburst squash is susceptible. Radishes, corn, peas, beans, pumpkin, marigolds, and nasturtiums are the ideal companion plants of starburst squash.
You can grow starburst squash in your garden outside or you can also grow them in pots indoors.
Greg Grant, in his 2021 book entitled Texas Fruit & Vegetable Gardening, 2nd Edition: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles for Texas Gardens, wrote: “Recommended summer squash varieties for Texas include pattypan varieties ‘Early White Bush’ and ‘Peter Pan’; yellow varieties ‘Cougar’, ‘Dixie’, ‘Gold Bar’, ‘Goldie’, ‘Hyrific’, ‘Multipik’, and ‘Sunburst'”
Make sure you clean your starburst squashes thoroughly before preparing them for cooking because starburst squashes grown using pesticides may still have traces of pesticides on them even after they’ve been washed after harvest.
Starburst squashes are vulnerable to being attacked by different kinds of pests, necessitating the use of different pesticides to ensure the growth and survival of the plants.
- Cucumber Beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl or Beauveria bassiana is the solution to rid of beetles.
- Spider mites – To get rid of spider mites, use neem oil and apply it through foliar spraying. It contains azadirachtin which is effective against spider mites. You can also use horticultural oil (which also targets aphids and thrips). Pests die after exposure to horticultural oil due to suffocation since the oil blocks the spiracles through which insects breathe. Another effect of horticultural oils is disrupting the metabolism of insect eggs. Lastly, horticultural oils disrupt the insect’s ability to feed. As a result, the insect starves to death. Using pyrethrin spray is also an effective method against spider mites. Another option is spinosad, a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D typically used to control a wide variety of pests.
- Squash bugs – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of squash bugs.
- Squash vine borers – Use man-made pesticide carbaryl, broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin, or the pyrethroid insecticide bifenthrin to rid your acorn squash of vine borers.
Starburst squash is called Gartenkürbis in German, Pattypan Σκουός in Greek, and patison in Polish. In Eastern Europe, it is common to find pickled starburst squash.
Starburst squash originated from Mexico. Texas is considered part of the native range of starburst squashes.
Starburst squashes are sold without any packaging. You may find pre-sorted starburst squash (sold in 1 kilo or half a kilo) in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, although normally, these are displayed in the market without any packaging heaped in a tray or basket, allowing you to examine and pick each piece and buy just enough for what you need.
Enjoying Starburst Squash
Starburst squash tastes sweet and the mouthfeel should be tender.
If you are monitoring your sodium intake, there is nothing to worry about when eating starburst squashes because they have less sodium. Just make sure that when you use them for cooking as an ingredient to a dish, use as little sodium or salt as possible.
Starburst squashes also have potassium, and eating these is beneficial for those trying to maintain low blood pressure.
Pregnant women should consider including this in their diet to improve their chances of avoiding neural tube defects in the fetus.
Put starburst squashes in a sealable plastic bag before refrigerating it. Store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. You can refrigerate fresh starburst squash for 2 to 3 days, maybe longer depending on the humidity setting of the refrigerator and the condition of the starburst squash before refrigeration. Always check your starburst squash if you are refrigerating these for longer than 3 days.
Before cooking them, make sure to wash starburst squash with running water to remove any dirt or debris that may have been lodged on the surface. Don’t be discouraged by its size compared to other bigger squashes and pumpkins, because starburst squashes are very versatile and can be used for different dishes. It is great battered and deep-fried, sauteed, stuffed, grilled, or roasted.
It tastes great if you have it with peas, corn, cheese, mushrooms, and red meat or fish. It tastes good cooked with many different herbs and spices. It is a great ingredient to use when making sweet food as well, like cakes, pies, and custards too. It is ideal to cut them into smaller pieces if you are using them for soups or stews. Others peel it while others are ok to cook it with skin intact.
If you are cooking the starburst squash flowers, make sure to check if there are any insects inside. The flowers are commonly added to fresh salads.
Used in the kitchen as a vegetable, starburst squash is botanically a fruit because it contains plant seeds.
Chef and restaurant owner Judy Rodgers, in her book The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant, shares her opinion regarding starburst squashes. “I find that showy banana-yellow zucchini and “starburst” squash usually disappointing flavorwise. But yellow crookneck squash can be quite sweet and is delicious grilled. So are pale green patty pan squashes.”
Starburst squash is a low-calorie vegetable. However, it has more vitamin A, folate, pyridoxine, and niacin than zucchini. Starburst squash also gives the body vitamin C, B-complex vitamins (thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin), and minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.