Oh Summer Squash. It has the dubious distinction of being the one plant every gardener always has way too much of. Heck, I often joke that I don’t need to grow it because I can reliably get some at work or from a neighbor who is looking to offload a chunk of their bounty. But, if you want to grow you own (and I usually do), here’s where to start!
Time to Maturity: This shouldn’t be an issue for any gardener. They average 50-55 days to maturity so don’t fret about this. If you are in really, really cold zones consider the varieties that clock in at or under 50 days (such as Segev F1, 47 days)
Disease and Pests: Keep an eye out for varieties that are resistant to Cucumber/Watermelon/Zucchini Mosaic Viruses for sure. Resistance to Powdery Mildew is a huge bonus (PM won’t kill the plant, but it is unsightly and may stress the plant to the point of reduced yields).
Shape: Patty Pan and Crookneck type summer squash are beautiful and tasty. But they are, in my opinion, a pain to wrangle in the kitchen due to their unique shape. I prefer the longer, narrower shapes to make processing easier.
Key Words: Flavor is key as summer squash can be somewhat bland so keep an eye out for taste descriptions like buttery, sweet, and nutty. Of course also look out for size descriptors. If you don’t want huge, honking ones look for varieties that either produce small fruit or have details about picking them small.
Use: Now, what are you looking for? Do you want monster zucchini to shred for freezing and use in breads? Or do you want things that stick to the smaller end of the spectrum? I always prefer smaller squash (or varieties that recommend picking small) because the huge ones become useless and seedy so quickly. We prefer to grill or saute them, so smaller and less seedy is what I’m always looking for.
My Favorites: I’ve tried many a variety, but my two favorites are Costata Romanesco and Ronde de Nice. They are primed for picking small and their shapes make them easy to manage in the kitchen. Their flavors are good and the plants are strong growers without inundating us with squash.
What I’ve Grown:
Patisson Golden Marbre Scallop (Patty Pan Type)- These were delicious, but I find the shape to be a pain in the kitchen so I’ve stopped growing these. If you love Patty Pans, this is a great one to try.
Gray Zucchini- Its a traditional zucchini that will grow to baseball bat proportions if you miss one under some leaves. The flavor is good and would be a great one to grow for shredding.
Zucchino Rampicante- This is a vining Italian squash that can be picked early to use as a zucchini or late to be used as a winter squash- very dual purpose and great for small spaces. Yes, it vines and will benefit from some support, but you get two crops for the price and space of one! The flavor is sweet and mild.
One last recommendation to new gardeners thinking about summer squash. Start with one plant (maaaaybe, possibly two if you have a big family that loves summer squash)! Every new gardener underestimates just how prolific these plants are and how big they get. Do yourself a favor and start small here, see if one plant meets your needs and scale up from there. Unless you want to go nuts, then I can skip growing them and you can drop off your extras at my place!