Savoring Summer Squash

This article by Samantha Johnson originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Northern Gardener.

It’s a splendid summer day. The sky is a brilliant blue and the sun shines with warmth in its golden glow. A few wispy clouds blow by, pushed by a gentle breeze.

You’re out in the garden, surrounded by the bounty of midsummer. Plants are growing and producing weekly (sometimes daily!) harvests, and you’re busily attempting to keep up with the watering and weeding that midsummer necessitates.

And all the while, you’re eyeing the ever-growing number of summer squash populating your plants.

What a glorious problem!  Yet it’s a very real issue that gardeners face each summer. Summer squash is the quintessential overachiever—it produces, and produces, then produces some more. You’ll pick everything of harvestable size, use or freeze or give them away, and then go back the next day to find that a dozen more have grown overnight and are ready for their turn in the spotlight.

basket of yellow patty pan summer squash

Summer squash are more than just zuchinni. Try patty pan and other shapes, too.

Needless to say, summer squash is easy to grow. You’ll need full sun, warm temperatures and consistent moisture. It’s best to sow summer squash seeds directly into the garden, as they can be somewhat temperamental when transplanted. Besides, they mature so quickly that giving the seeds an indoor head start really isn’t necessary, even here in the North.

Varieties for this vegetable abound—and that’s half of the fun. Black Beauty zucchini is a tried-and-true favorite that always delivers, and if crookneck squash suits your fancy, you can’t go wrong with Early Summer Golden. For extra fun, plant some patty pan squash. (White Scallop is a perennial favorite.)

But of all the varieties in all the world, my very favorite is Cube of Butter, which is a yellow summer squash. It has the most delicious flavor and it produces an unbelievable yield. One summer, I counted more than 100 yellow squash on six plants. Now that’s powerful production!

Cooking with Squash

Now, I’m all about comfort food and my favorite comfort foods is squash baked in a casserole with onions and Swiss cheese. It’s super-simple and unbelievably delicious. I could eat summer squash like that every day of the week and never change up the recipe. But if your taste buds are yearning for something different, you can prepare your squash in any number of ways.

Love pizza? Grated summer squash makes a wonderful and healthy addition to your regular toppings. Or get really creative and create your pizza crust out of zucchini for a low-carb option.

On summer weekends, grill up some sliced squash with an assortment of in-season vegetables and serve with cheese and French bread. Or grill the vegetables and serve as a salad along with your favorite dressing.

Still got the grill out? Make vegetable kabobs with chunks of zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes or whatever else you have on hand.

Summer squash can be the perfect way to make some awesome appetizers, too! Cut into rounds and bake with cheese. Easy and delicious!

And we mustn’t forget zucchini lasagna. Squash makes an excellent substitute for pasta noodles while still producing a very tasty meal.

Still hungry? Make soup! But the very best idea of all may be as simple as zucchini bread—an unparalleled treat that is so delightful that it really should be considered a dessert.

Based in northern Wisconsin, Samantha Johnson is the author of The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, (Voyageur Press, 2013).

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