My Favorite Summer Squash

zucchini-home-2008sept23-lah-250The fun thing about growing any kind of summer squash is that no matter which variety you choose, you’re likely to be blessed with a bumper crop. Not only that, but zucchini tastes a lot like patty pan which tastes a lot like crookneck which tastes a lot like the new globular introductions. It’s hard to go wrong.

However, there are subtle differences. I’ve trialed a number of varieties. Surprisingly, some varieties succumbed to a heat wave, hail storm, or torrential downpour, while others persevered.  Others took too long to produce a crop. I find the days to harvest given in the catalogs have little in common with what actually happens in my garden, probably because our nights are so cool.

One innovation in summer squash is plants that have fewer spines. Your arms will thank you when you go to harvest your crop. Some plants are also more open than others, making the squash easier to find. Also look for varieties with resistance to various diseases, depending on what occurs in your garden. I often choose types that are resistant or tolerant to powdery mildew.

coosa-c-pinetreeMy hands-down favorite summer squash is Coosa, a Mideastern variety. (I recently learned that Coosa means “squash” in Arabic.) As you can see from the photo (courtesy of Pinetree Seeds), it’s a light grayed green, short and stout, with firmer flesh than our typical zucchini. I think it tastes a bit better, too—perhaps you could describe it as “nutty” in flavor. In my garden, it’s always the first variety to mature. I’ve never had a disease problem, but the pocket gophers share my enthusiasm. I guess they can’t breed in resistance to gophers.

When it comes to basic green zucchini, there are plenty of options. I happen to grow Ambassador (photo at top) because it’s the variety that my favorite seed company carries. I also like its forest green color. I don’t know if it has more nutrition than other varieties—darker green veggies often do—but it looks really pretty sliced and combined with my favorite yellow variety, Goldrush.

I prefer to grow yellow zucchini for the same reason I grow yellow beans—it’s easier to find and harvest the fruit. Baseball bat squash may look impressive, but they’re not that useful in the kitchen and they signal the plant to stop flowering. I want my zucchinis when they’re young and tender. Goldrush was an All America winner back in 1980, and it does well for me. However, there are now newer yellow zucchinis, and I’m planning some trials for next year.

summer-squash-home-2008sept23-lah-251The final summer squash I always grow is a patty-pan called Sunburst. The fruits are bright yellow with a green eye where the blossom used to be. (For some odd reason, the specimen I happened to photograph doesn’t have the green eye.) They’re delicious, with solid flesh that isn’t at all watery. At only 50 days to maturity, you get your squash in a hurry. Just be sure to pick them while small—older squash get spongy with a hard rind. It too was an All America winner, in 1985.

All these varieties are available from multiple sources. I happen to get my seed from Pinetree Seeds and recommend them highly.

Well, these are my favorite summer squash varieties. What are yours?

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