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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Bolduc

Summer Squash

Updated: Jan 31

High-producing and versatile squashes to keep a gardener busy and happy all summer long!

Summer squash celebration • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021

Summer squash is the soft and tender variety of squash that is harvested in the summertime when young before the skin hardens. The most common varieties of courgettes (zucchinis) and button squashes (patty pan) are called summer squash, and their flesh texture is moist, and taste is mild. Harvested in autumn, the winter squashes, like spaghetti squash, gourds and all varieties of pumpkins, have a hard skin, dense flesh, sweeter taste and can be stored through the winter. All summer and winter squash are native to North and Central America, but the cylindric green zucchini has been cultivated for centuries in Italy after the introduction of cucurbits. It’s only since growing food in my Aussie backyard that I learnt all about cultivating various varieties and how different they are named from one continent to another (see “Pumpkin or Squash?” post). But going back to the summer squash, when growing your own, you learn that they are extremely productive, economical and fast-growing crops. The other good news is that there are several ways to prepare these versatile vegetables. I’ve been cooking and eating them most days during summer for a few years now. That gives me the chance to explore so many recipes. When the season is over, though, no more zucchinis until the following summer. Thank you! Not just because I’ve had enough, I’m now finding the ones at the supermarket so soft and tasteless after having so many organic freshies all summer long!

Garden summer squash • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-21


Summer squash are easy to grow from seed and as we live in a cold climate region, I start them inside or under cover in spring and plant them out after the last frosts. The zucchini varieties like “black beauty” and “cocozelle” are the most prolific in my garden, and I pick some every day in peak time when the vegetable measures about 15 to 20 cm. Sometimes, I miss one and find a jumbo courgette, which becomes a bit too hard and moist on the inside, but I just cut it in two and give it as a treat to the chooks; they love it! As for button (patty pan) squashes, they are also very productive if planted at the right spot but seem a little more fussy… Once, I had a magic plant that produced so many perfect yellow scallop-edged little squash, and I was harvesting a big bowl every day. That year I made many photos, cooking experiments, preserves and market sales with them, they were gold! Another interesting and very delicious productive plant that can be harvested as summer or winter squash if left to mature is the climbing tromboncino. I’ll get back to this one later!

Summer squash condiments • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019

Zucchini flowers are edible but I’m letting them go to the bees as we’re satisfied enough with the vegetable. As a side, the squash is deliciously sliced and grilled on the BBQ, stir-fried, steamed and ribboned on salad. I love them grated into pasta, savoury cakes (like fritters) and quiches. Some bake them into sweet cakes and bread. They are also excellent in Italian-style recipes like pizzas and lasagne, and they can even replace noodles if grated with a julienne peeler. Larger ones can be baked as “boats” and stuffed with whatever ingredients. They are so mild that they pair with everything mostly. There are times when over-abundance becomes overwhelming, so another great way not to waste them is to pack them in jars as beautiful condiments that save up to a year. I love my homemade courgette pickles and summer squash relish. At the end of the summer, leaves start to be affected by powdery mildew, and the plants die as the weather gets cooler. Discarding or burning the plant is best, as the mildew can live in the compost over winter. Then it is time to say goodbye for now, and look after harvesting and cooking the winter squash for a change!

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