The World of Summer Squash

As with so many gardens this time of the year, ours has begun to produce beautiful summer squash. My husband only grows two kinds and they are the two you see most commonly in the supermarket – zucchini & yellow crookneck squash. There is more to summer squash, though, and that is the subject of this Cooking Tip. I will discuss a few of the varieties although the list is not exhaustive.

I am pretty sure you won’t be able to find all of the following varieties in your supermarket. At my local markets, I can buy zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, chayote and tatume. You may find a larger selection at a farmer’s market and you can certainly grow most of these.

Chayote

With a somewhat wrinkled shape and a light green color, this variety is slightly sweet with an apple- or cucumber-like flavor. It may be put into a salad, marinated, pickled, grilled, sauteed or used in soups.

Cousa

This variety of summer squash is shorter and squattier than zucchini. It is lighter in color and may be striated. It has very thin skin and is a bit sweeter than zucchini. Because of the shape, they are great for making stuffed squash boats.

Pattypan

This squash comes in a variety of shades from white to yellow to green as well as different sizes. They are also known as “scallop squash” due to the scalloped edges. The smaller ones take very well to the grill but are also good when roasted or sauteed.

Round zucchini

Also known as Eight Ball zucchini. they taste just like regular zucchini but are shaped more like a grapefruit. They are great for making stuffed squash just as you would stuffed peppers. Another fun use is to spoon out the insides and use as a bowl in which you serve soup.

Tatume/Tatuma

A Mexican heirloom squash also known as calabacita or Mexican grey squash. Some look like a lighter green zucchini and others are more round in shape. No matter the shape, this variety is sweeter and more flavorful than zucchini. Use just as a regular zucchini.

Yellow Crookneck

This is what most of us call yellow squash and can be either straightneck or crookneck. They are bright yellow and the skin can be either smooth or bumpy. They have the best texture if under 6 inches in length. Flavor is mild and similar to zucchini. A popular use is in a summer squash gratin, especially when mixed with green squashes.

Zephyr

This squash is two toned, yellow on top and pale green on bottom. It is a hybrid between yellow crookneck, delicata and yellow acorn squash. They are perfect for slicing into rounds or making into zucchini noodles. They have a somewhat nutty flavor.

Zucchini

This is the squash most people think of when you say summer squash. They are thin skinned with firm flesh. The smaller ones may be eaten raw but may also be grilled, sautéed or grated into zucchini bread.

As you pick out your summer squash, look for ones that are firm, vibrant in color and heavy for their size. Avoid wrinkled skin or soft spots. Pick smaller squash (aim for under 8 ounces) as they will be more tender, less watery and more flavorful.

When you get the summer squash home, store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to about a week or two. Some experts say they will keep longer if put in a plastic bag with one corner open to promote air circulation.

If sliced and blanched, they can be frozen and kept that way for up to a year. It can also be grated and frozen to use later in zucchini bread or muffins. Note, though, as it thaws, it will accumulate liquid, which will need to be drained.

My favorite way to prepare summer squash is to toss them in oil and Italian seasoning, sear in a grill pan or a cast iron skillet and then serve with a grating of Parmesan cheese. What is your favorite way?