As many food gardeners know, there are two types of squash: summer and winter. But that doesn’t mean that winter squash is grown in the winter, rather, the names refer to the fact that summer squash is harvested and eaten in the summer, while winter squash is harvested in late summer and fall and can be stored almost all winter long.
The difference lies in the rinds. Summer squash has a tender skin—you should be able to pierce it with your thumbnail when it’s ready to harvest—and doesn’t store well. In fact, summer squash is ready to eat fairly quickly in the summer (in about 60 days), and is harvested when it’s small and immature. Leave summer squash on the vine too long and you’ll have bitter, hard flesh.
Zucchini is the most common summer squash. In fact, many people think it’s the only kind of summer squash. You’ll find out later in this collection that that’s not true. Pattypan or scalloped is another equally tasty variety, among others.
Winter squash, on the other hand, ripens much later than summer squash (in about 80 to 110 days). It has a thicker rind and can be stored throughout the winter for delicious eating. Well-known winter squashes include pumpkin, Hubbard, and butternut.
Most summer squashes are bushy, while winter squashes have a rambling vine habit. That makes it a bit more difficult to find room in your garden for summer squash, because vining plants expand in one direction when they grow and can be directed away from other plants, while bush plants expand equally in all directions and take up more space.
Still, even summer squash can be encouraged to grow up a trellis, or in a container, as we’ll see later on, so you can enjoy this summer staple no matter how much or how little room you have for gardening!
Finally, summer squash is quite perishable and may last only five days even when refrigerated in a plastic bag. It is eaten almost immediately after harvesting and requires little or no cooking.
Do you prefer summer or winter squash—and why? Or do you love them both equally? Please share your opinion with us!