June 18, 2012

Oodles of Summer Squash

There are lots of factors involved in deciding how much summer squash to put in the ground each spring: productivity of the varieties you're planting; growing conditions in your yard; likelihood of pests attacking some of your plants; how much squash your family likes to eat (or how much you can sneak into your recipes without them knowing it!); whether you're planning to preserve any of it or eat it all fresh; and whether your neighbors will bring over a harvest basket or quickly run the other direction when you announce you have squash to share.

Morning squash harvest

Last year, I ignored all of those factors and planted summer squash as an afterthought at the end of May. Both plants looked ugly from the start and died before producing anything edible. By then it was too late to replant, so we ate very little squash.

This year, I think I overcompensated for last year's failure. Out of fear of a repeat, I started an abundance of squash seed in the greenhouse in March, and all of it took. After giving away some of the starts, I put six plants in a front yard bed, started three in large terra cotta pots in the backyard, and tucked two more under a Crepe Myrtle near the greenhouse, just in case. The homestead has been overflowing with squash for at least a month. The only saving grace is that I chose four different varieties and have been picking them very young, so it hasn't gotten out of hand yet.


My favorite variety in terms of looks has been the Piccolo squash, which resembles a miniature watermelon. I've learned these need to be picked when they're no more than tennis ball size; leave them on the plant much longer and they develop a strong taste and an interior filled with large seeds.

Another new variety for me this year is Patio Star, which has been bred to do well in a container. The jury's still out on this one. For one thing, in our Davis heat the pots need to be watered almost every day by hand, and that's a pain. Also, fertilization of the flowers has been spotty, with about half the tiny zucchini shriveling up and falling off the bush instead of developing into edible veggies. There are lots of flowers, though, so maybe it will prove worthwhile in the end.

Patio Star (meant to be grown in a pot)

I haven't grown yellow squash in a few years, so I also chose to plant a few Early Prolific Yellow Squash. They are, in fact, both early and prolific, and the blend of yellow and green squash is pretty in the kitchen.

Early Prolific Yellow Squash

And I can't leave out the old standby, Black Beauty zucchini. I've grown this variety for years. The only drawback I've found is that you've got to check it daily, or you'll have a baseball-sized zuke before you know it. When that happens, I usually just pluck it off the vine and toss it to the chickens.

Black Beauty

I've enjoyed the new varieties this summer, but there are so many fun squash varieties to choose from that I think I'll pick a couple of different ones next year (while keeping Black Beauty). Any reader favorites? Leave a comment with the variety and the seed house if you know it. In the meantime, I'm off to make my next batch of zucchini nut muffins.


  1. There was a time when your dad did not like many vegetables - including zucchini. Fixing dishes in which the zucchini was hidden, was fun. It must have worked, because now AWM loves it.

    1. Not only did it work for him, but I love those recipes, too! Next up on my dessert menu is Chocolate Zucchini Cake--remember that?

  2. What is the best way to cook a piccolo squash? I have never had it before and just harvested my first batch.

    1. The most important thing is to harvest when they're about baseball size, no bigger. Then they'll be creamy and mild in flavor. I cook them as I do any zucchini, but a favorite way is to slice them in 1/4 inch slices, dip the slices in egg, cover with seasoned breadcrumbs, and pan fry in a bit of olive oil 'til golden. Dip them in a touch of ranch if you like. That's not the healthiest way to eat them so we only do it occasionally, but they sure are delicious!