What is summer without squash? They are easy to grow, bear an abundant crop and can feed the family into the fall if you grow several kinds. Summer squash can be cooked or used raw in salads. Winter squash is always cooked but can be stored easily for a considerable amount of time and enjoyed into the winter. Squash can be used for its own sake as the vegetable at dinner or be used to make bread, soup, or appetizers. Its subtle flavor works well with almost anything and it can be spiced up to please those who love spicy food (like me). I look forward to my squash crop every summer and would not do without it.
In recent years hybridizes have been producing many different varieties/cultivars of squash so please note: I have not tried all the squash out there so my recommendations are limited by my experience. I am sure that there are many wonderful kinds of squash that meet all kinds of needs and I am only reporting on those I have grown successfully. That having been said, I also must admit that I buy whatever seed is available of the type of squash I like, and I also allow any “volunteers” in my garden to grow and produce fruit, and I have never been disappointed; even the fruit from the “volunteers” have been very satisfactory. But, doesn’t that say it all? Squash are really easy!
I usually plant two types of summer squash and at least one of winter squash. The summer squash are faster growing, have smaller fruit, and the fruit are eaten while immature when the skins are tender so can be eaten raw or cooked. Winter squash grow more slowly, have larger fruit that is eaten when the skin in hard. They must be cooked before eating but store well for up to 1 to 6 months depending on the variety and conditions.
Squash are very easy to grow from seed; they have a high germination rate and germinate in about a week. To reduce transplantation stress I plant two seeds in a peat pot and then pop the whole pot into the garden as soon as the first true leaves appear. The mature plants are very large and take up a lot of garden space so you will probably have to exercise restraint when choosing what to grow. Here are my recommendations.
Nota Bene: My recommendations are greatly influenced by what seed I can find in the stores.
Summer Squash: I plant both the yellow ones and zucchini but there is also a very good round, scallop one. Here are my suggestions:
Yellow: These may have a straight neck or crooked neck. I like the look of the crooked neck but like cutting up and cooking the straight neck ones.
Yellow Crookneck: ‘Early Yellow Summer Crookneck’ (classic open-pollinated crookneck; curved neck; warted; heavy yields) Yellow Straightneck: “Early Prolific Straightneck “(standard open-pollinated straightneck, light cream color, attractive straight fruit)
Zucchini: (Sometimes these are just labeled “Black” or “Green”)
‘Black Zucchini’ (best known summer squash; greenish black skin, white flesh)
‘Black Beauty’ (slender, with slight ridges, dark black-green)
‘Cocozelle’ (dark green overlaid with light green stripes; long, very slender fruit)
I have not been very successful with the Cocozelle but I like the look of them.
Winter squash: I always plant acorn squash but there are many winter squash to choose from, hubbard and spaghetti being especially nice.
‘Bush Table Queen’ (old fashioned, standard)
Whatever squash you decide to plant you will find that they earn their keep. You will have more squash than you can eat so will be able to share your crop with friends and family.