A Gardener’s Guide ~ There’s Joy in Growing Fruiting Vegetables, especially Summer Squash
UPWARDS IN THE GARDEN
A Gardener’s Guide ~ There’s Joy in Growing Fruiting Vegetables, especially Summer Squash
Summer squash is excellent for autumn feasts and can be harvested about 55 days after planting. Plan accordingly and put your summer vegetable garden in the fall spirit.
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss
One in a series of gardening guides on cultivating well-liked plants.
Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita moschata, and a limited number of Cucurbita maxima species
Never tolerate a paltry crop of summer squash! Even if you could control them ~ and you can't ~ Why? So don't even try! But, as most non-gardeners know, squash and zucchini grow like wildfire with the sun's intense brilliance to nourish them.
If you overplant in the squash department, you will have more than your family and friends can realistically consume.
Dare to put in a little more effort, and you might work a vegetable stand at the local farmer's market.
You will quickly learn that squash proliferates, especially in hot weather, and all that fruiting deliciousness is usually ready to pick within 4 to 8 days after flowering.
The Meaning of Summer
Spring is seen as the start of all things fresh and renewed. Flowers bloom, and large and small animals come out of their hibernation. But summer is most treasured for the strange and exciting things that will happen.
Be thankful if you live somewhere with four distinct seasons. Summer can transform the most ordinary place into a utopian one where all are particularly happy for no reason.
Schools are closed in the summer, and children can move about, free to do what they please. Summer is a time for youth and innocence. A period full of fun activities and fewer responsibilities.
Summer is about nature. Wander around your backyard, and as the bliss invigorates you, just enjoy yourself witness to the beauty of a garden full of plenty.
~ Mark Zuleger-Thyss
With the transformation from spring into summer, embrace it for the strange and exciting things that WILL happen.
What could be stranger than a seed bursting open to produce any one of a multitude of summer squash from a tiny blossom?
You might grow summer squash - especially deep green zucchinis - for their welcoming, golden blossoms. Squash flowers will faithfully greet you in the morning with a beaming smile, their petals wide open.
Before you do anything, take a leisurely tour of your summer garden. You will find inspiration in planning the day's menus and dreaming up new and creative ways to use squash and zucchini along with their flowers.
You can chop squash blossoms up, toss them in a frittata, or stuff them with fillings, cheeses, tabouleh, herbs, and even chopped squash and zucchini. Or deep fry the blossoms, give them a quick sauté, or gently steam them.
Growing Squash: Easier than You Might Think!
Squash is a staple in many gardens, yielding versatile fruits to spark your culinary creativity. They're quick, hearty growers, but they are only partially trouble-free.
There are more than two main types of summer squash: the popular green zucchini and the round yellow cultivars. So, before you jaunt off to the farmer's market to purchase your seeds, take some time to learn about the different kinds.
Appearing in many diverse fruit shapes and colors, the most common summer squash are the yellow crookneck, straight neck, and green and yellow zucchinis.
Summer squash is a warm-season vegetable that can be grown quickly in your home garden anytime during the frost-free growing season. You can count on a few healthy and well-maintained plants to produce abundant yields.
The Whole Seed Catalog for 2023 is available now for $7.50. An exceptional buy for a book of 500 pages. You will find beautiful photos of their collection of rare vegetable and flower seeds, especially heirloom varieties from around the world.
For an idea of how quickly squash can grow, here are a few selections from The Whole Seed Catalog 2023.
For gourmet flavor, the Benning’s Green Tint Scallop Squash ~ 50 days growing time. Earliest-ever squash, the Desi Squash ~ 40 days. Dating back to pre-Columbus times, an old favorite heirloom, the Early Golden Summer Crookneck Squash ~ 50 days. Better than a zucchini, a legendary Guatemalan heirloom, the Mongogo de Guatemala Squash ~ 65 days. Originating from the fertile valleys near Odessa, Ukraine, the Odessa Squash ~ 65 days. And an ancient Native American heirloom, the White Scallop Squash ~ 50 days growing time before harvest.
Summer has much to Offer in the Realm of Vegetables
Because summer squash develops rapidly after pollination, some gardeners allow the fruit bodies to get too large and overmatured.
You do not want your zucchinis to resemble baseball bats containing only seeds. Once the plants get seedy, this signals the end of their life cycle. Summer squash should be harvested when small and tender for the best quality. They are edible when the skin is glossy and can be pierced with a thumbnail.
Zucchini, crookneck, and yellow squash are ready when 6 to 8 inches (ca. 20 cm) long. It is best to harvest scalloped varieties when they measure 3 to 6 inches (ca. 15 cm) in diameter. Baby summer squash—picked when even smaller—will be exceptionally flavorful and tender.
Check your squash plants every three days once they begin to produce fruit. Overripe squash with skin so hard it cannot be marked by your fingernail is too old to use and should be tossed away.
The Squash Vegetables in TV Shows
There is an iconic episode of 'Gilmore Girls" where Lorelai's dream of opening an inn called The Dragonfly comes close to reality. But Sookie is anxious about making the perfect meals and including zucchini soup.
With their typical witty repartee, the sisters talk about how to obtain perfectly ripe zucchinis in time. Jackson makes sure his wife is satisfied by sleeping with the zucchinis to guarantee their perfection. The sketch is named "Who's on First: Zucchini Edition."
Squash Engenders Both Male and Female Flowers
The thing about squashes, and all types of cucurbits, whether melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, or zucchini, is that they produce both male and female flowers.
The reason for summer squash's bountiful growth is not about flowers' getting intimate. Both male and female flowers are found on the same plant because they are physically separate and cannot self-pollinate. Therefore, they must have the assistance of pollinating insects to transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.
Although summer squash has male and female flowers, only the female flowers produce fruits.
From his small house named 'Fort Juniper' in Amherst, Massachusetts, American poet Robert Francis (1901; Upland, PA – 1987) wrote inspiring works, including this famous poem.
"Squash In Blossom"
How lush, how loose, the uninhibited squash is.
If ever hearts (and these immoderate leaves
Are vegetable hearts) were worn on sleeves,
The squashes are. In green, the squash vine gushes.
The flowers are cornucopias of summer,
Briefly exuberant and cheaply golden.
And if they make a show of being hidden,
Are open promiscuously to every comer.
Let the squash be what it was doomed to be
By the old Gardener with the shrewd green thumb.
Let it expand and sprawl, defenseless, dumb.
But let me be the fiber-disciplined tree
Whose leaf (with something to say in the wind) is small,
Reduced to the ingenuity of a green splinter
Sharp to defy or fraternize with winter,
Or if not that, prepared in fall to fall.
Summer squash can provide a large harvest from late spring through the fall. It is an ample producer prolifically churning out more and more produce.
Plant a buttery Yellow Crookneck, a delicately flavored Golden Scallop Pattypan, and a Black Beauty zucchini. You could pick several squashes daily by the time peak season rolls around.
But there are more types of squash than you might have time for. For example, the common ones you might know are Classic Green Zucchini, Yellow Zucchini, Round Zucchini, and Yellow Straight Neck Squash.
Squash season comes with endless possibilities for soups, pies, side dishes, casseroles, and more. Over 100 types of squash are categorized into both summer and winter varieties.
This squash originated in Mexico, but it is now grown worldwide. Chayote is low in calories and tastes like a cucumber, making it versatile for grilling, sautéing, baking, or using in soups. Add to salads for a nice crunch.
This short, squatty squash is lighter in color than zucchini but can be used the same way. The only difference is that Cousa is a little sweeter, has thinner skin, and is commonly used in Lebanese and Syrian cuisines.
Luffa squash is an unusual variety that will become loofah-like if given enough time to mature. The skin cracks away as it dries, and the inside is revealed to be a wiry, scratchy object perfect for scrubbing. Harvest them young when they have the appearance of a ridged zucchini. Immature luffa can be eaten raw or used instead of zucchini in any recipe.
This stunning squash is a hybrid between yellow crookneck, delicata, and yellow acorn squash, and it is used like any other squash. It's easy to recognize for its two-tone coloration: light green on the bottom and yellow on top. Zephyr squash is dense, like a pattypan, but easier to slice due to its shape.
West Stockbridge Zucchini Festival ~ Massachusetts 01266
Many squash & zucchini festivals across the U.S. occur in the Fall. Search Google for more. Here are only two:
The Difference between Summer & Winter Squash?
Members of the same family as melons and cucumbers, all types of squash are gourds—fleshy fruits protected by a rind. “Squash” comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means “eaten raw or uncooked.”
Squash is one of the oldest-known crops–10,000 years by some estimates of sites in Mexico. Since squashes are gourds, they were often used as containers or utensils. The seeds and flesh later became essential to the pre-Columbian Indian diet in both South and North America.
Today summer squash is eaten while immature. It has a soft shell and tender flesh. Summer squash has a high-water content, is low in calories, and can also be eaten raw.
Winter squash has a hard shell and large seeds. Winter squash is harvested when fully mature. They are larger and darker in coloring and richer in nutrients than summer squash. Winter squash often has a thicker, harder rind. This allows them to stay robust and sturdy through frost and lower temperatures. But it also means you can’t munch on the skin.
Harvest summer squash early and often
Squash multiplies. What is small one day is often ready to harvest the next day. It tastes best when small and tender.
Summer squash is a peculiar vegetable. For one thing, it's not any one vegetable, comprising many different cultivars of a few other edible plant species. For another, it isn't a vegetable.
Summer squash is technically a "pepo," a type of hard-walled berry.
So strange that some even come with bold stripes and other intriguing patterns.
A Simple Guide to Growing Delicious Squash
Plant summer squash when all chances of frost have passed; winter squash can be planted mid-summer.
Grow your squash in a sunny spot with moisture-retentive, fertile soil. Give the plants room to sprawl by planting them 3 to 6 feet (1.83 meters) apart.
It is best to grow squash plants in an area with 6 or more hours of sun and rich soil. Give your native soil a nutrient boost by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter. Well-drained garden soils produce excellent yields of summer squash. Using mulch will keep the shallow roots moist and cool and allow for early harvest and increased profits.
Before watering, check the soil at the base of the plant. If there's moisture about 4″ below the soil surface, you can stall a little longer. If it seems a little dry, go ahead and water it. Squash relies on consistent moisture but avoids getting the leaves wet.
Growing Squash in Your Summer Garden
Think of what an adventure you'll have by growing squash during the summer months.
There is nothing like the good humor, joy, and comfort gardening can bring. With the abundance of food squash will provide, there will be no danger of your family going hungry!
Squash is unapologetically simple, tasty, and nutritious. Give this vegetable all the water it requires, and they will reward you with delicious fruits you can eat or preserve. Squash will provide more than enough food to freeze, gift, and share with family, friends, and neighbors.
There are many types of summer squash, each with a unique color, shape, texture, and flavor. For optimum quality, harvest them while the fruits are tender and still have a shiny or glossy appearance.
Summer squash is a sun-worshipping plant; any area with full sun is ideal. While they may still survive in partial shade, they will be less prolific in producing fruit.
Refrain from allowing summer squash to become too large and seedy because they sap strength from the plant that could better be used to produce more young fruit. Instead, pick large squash with developed seeds and hard, complicated skin and throw them away. Go over the plants every one to three days.
© 2005 – 2023, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC.
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