Contrary to the belief that summer squash got its name from the time of the year it is harvested, the truth is, the name “summer squash” is about the short storage life of these squashes, contrary to winter squashes which last much longer. Another way to differentiate summer squash from winter squash is harvest conditions. Summer squashes are harvested when they are still immature, the rind tender and edible. It is typical of summer squashes to appear bushy, different from winter squashes which are oftentimes vine-type plants. Many – not all – varieties of Cucurbita pepo are summer squashes.
Summer Squash Trivia
- We know what berries are (blueberry, blackberry, etc.), but we can’t imagine a zucchini as a berry although botanically, the fruit of the zucchini plant is a berry!
- If there is a flower attached to the zucchini fruit, that is a good way to tell that the fruit is fresh, immature, and ripe for picking.
- A popular dish that uses zucchini is the French dish ratatouille, popularized by the animated movie of the same name.
- Zucchini was voted Britain’s 10th favorite culinary vegetable in a 2005 poll.
- Do not confuse the Cucurbita pepo crookneck squash from the crookneck cultivars of Cucurbita moschata (e.g. Golden Cushaw or the vining summer squash Tromboncino).
- If there is a crookneck squash, is there a straightneck squash? As a matter of fact, yes, there is!
Summer Squash Buying Guide
When buying summer squash, don’t get frustrated if all you can see are medium or small squashes. While size is important, that doesn’t apply to summer squashes. Avoid big summer squash in favor of smaller ones because a big summer squash is more likely to be more fibrous, contain fat, and have bitter seeds. Another tip when buying summer squash is to buy just enough for cooking in the next few days. Summer squashes do not store very well and they have a very short freshness span, after which they will start to deteriorate until they are not ideal for eating. When buying summer squashes, make sure to inspect their outer appearance. Choose one without blemishes, spots, holes, bruising, or any marks that suggest that the squash is not fresh and the quality is compromised.
Despite the name, many kinds of summer squash are available all year long.
Here is a list of summer squashes:
- Cousa squash
- Pattypan or scallop squash
- Tromboncino or zucchetta
- Crookneck squash
- Straightneck squash
- Zucchini (courgette)
- Aehobak or Korean zucchini
Summer Squash Production & Farming in Texas
In Texas, the first planting season for the year for summer squashes starts in the middle of March until the first week of May. Fall crop is planted in the second week of July until the first week of September.
Summer 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. Summer squash will do well if you plant it in soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. Make sure the soil drains well.
It prefers full sun. Plant after the danger of frost has passed. Ideally, the soil temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit when you start planting.
If you are planting summer squash, consider the space available to you. There are vining varieties that require trellises. There are also bush types that you can grow in containers.
Summer squashes are a favorite target of many different pests.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
- Cucumber Beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl or Beauveria bassiana is the solution to rid of flea beetles.
- Cutworms – Pesticides such as carbaryl will kill cutworms attacking your summer squash. Pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and the insecticide permethrin are also useful for this purpose.
- Leafminers – Use spinosad against leafminers.
- 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 summer squash of vine borers.
- Thrips – To kill thrips, there is a wide array of options to choose from: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, anti-parasite spray spinosad, or pyrethrin pesticides with piperonyl butoxide.
Florida and California rank first and second when it comes to producing summer squashes. Zucchini, a type of summer squash descended from Mesoamerican squashes, was cultivated in the US starting in the 1920s. Historians believe growing zucchinis in the US began in California, brought there by Italian immigrants. Crookneck squash, another kind of summer squash, is believed to have originated in Eastern North America.
Summer squashes are usually sold without any type of packaging, primarily because their thick skin and rind already provide it with a layer of protection, keeping the flesh inside safe from any potential contamination while out on display. In some supermarkets or groceries, they cover squashes with plastic wrap.
Enjoying Summer Squashes
If you have a summer squash plant, remember that the flesh is not the only edible part of the summer squash. You can also eat the skin and seeds. You can eat summer squash raw – a great quality of summer squash that you cannot find in winter squash which you have to cook for a long time. Today, many recipes make use of summer squash – you can eat it in the morning, afternoon, or evening, as part of the main course, or as a side dish.
Do not cut the summer squash before storing it in the refrigerator. Keep it whole and make sure you store it dry. Put it inside a plastic or paper bag and keep the bag is open to allow circulation since this will help preserve the summer squash. The best place to store a summer squash is in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Normally, summer squash will keep for 1 to 2 weeks. Before storage, make sure your summer squash is clean.
There are a lot of ways to cook summer squash. You can use this in soups, stews, and casserole recipes. It is a very flexible food that you can use when preparing a vegetarian dinner. You can put this on pasta as a meat replacement or mix it with your salad greens. You can use summer squash in curries, wraps, and even as a pizza topping. You can also use summer squash in baked goods like breads and muffins. Many people also practice pickling summer squash to preserve it.
Summer squashes are good for your health. They contain calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, phosphorus, and thiamine. A diet that includes summer squash benefits the eyes, skin, and heart. Summer squash also helps improve our digestion, lowers our blood sugar levels, and helps us lose weight. Eating summer squash helps the body stay energetic. Summer squashes have beta-carotene that helps in slowing cognitive decline. Summer squashes also help keep the immune system, hair, skin, and tissues healthy. Summer squashes are good for those in a low-carb, low-calorie, zero-cholesterol diet.
When Are Summer Squash in Season in Texas?
To find out when Summer Squash are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.