First of the Season – Summer Squash is Here!
A wide array of varietals can make up your Seasonal Summer Squash Mixes – from Green and Yellow Patty Pans, to Eight-Balls and Gold Bar, to Gold and Green Zucchini, and more – all ranging widely in appearance, yet maintaining a similarity of texture and flavor – with only subtle differences between varieties. Summer Squash is characterized by its youth, as they are all varieties of Squash harvested while still immature (hence why you will also hear of them referred to as “babies”) to ensure ideal flavor, moisture, and a thinner, more tender and edible skin. Unlike Winter Squash which is allowed to mature fully, the immature Summer Squashes have a much shorter shelf life so need to be used soon after harvesting.
Squash is part of the Cucurbita (latin for Gourd) family, and although originating in the Andes and Mesoamerica, it made its way to the US primarily via Italy where the Summer Varieties (especially Zucchini) first gained popularity after being brought back by early Spanish and Italian explorers of the New World.
Around World War I it started to be used and cultivated in the US, and quickly gained popularity. After “baby carrots” started the baby veggie craze in the 1980’s, the Summer Squashes (harvested young to achieve their ideal flavor and texture) finally hit their stride – baby green Zucchini becoming one of the most popular squashes commercially in the US.
Now its time to check out some of our favorites you’ll see in at the Market over the next month, starting with the most popular of Summer Squash’s: Zucchini (and make sure you scroll all the way down and explore some of our favorite recipes for Summer Squash from the web).
Green and Yellow Zucchini Squash:
Green Zucchini Squash: Cylindrical in shape, it has dark green glossy skin, and creamy white flesh containing a few small edible seeds. The flesh is firm with a slightly spongy texture and a traditional mild and sweet Summer Squash flavor, with just a hint of pepper and warm nutty undertones. Harvested anywhere from its baby phase at only a few inches long to its mature phase around 7-8 inches, the skin grows progressively thicker as it matures, and is most popular at its “baby-teen” phase around 5-6” inches when its flavor is at its peak and the skin is more delicate.
Golden/Yellow Zucchini Squash: has a smooth and glossy bright yellow skin, with a punch of light green at both the stem and blossom ends, and a tapered cylindrical shape. The interior flesh is a creamy white with a firm texture and a light earthy flavor with nutty undertones, and a mild sweetness which increases when cooked. Like the green varietals, Golden Squash is at its ideal flavor when harvested in its less mature phases (usually 5” and under).
Gold Bar Zucchini: Is a straight neck varietal of Golden/Yellow Zucchini (and often referred to simply as Yellow Summer Squash or Yellow Zucchini). Long and slender, it has a glossy and smooth vibrant yellow skin (sometimes with a lighter yellow striping running lengthwise), capped at both ends by bright green. Its creamy white flesh is firm yet succulent and contains a super moist seed cavity, and has a light grassy and nutty flavor, highlighted by a mild sweetness. They are typically harvested like other Zucchini’s, at early-maturity, when the flavor is at its best and the skin is still thin and tender – making it unnecessary to peel or remove it prior to eating.
Cooking with Zucchini: Sharing very similar flavoring and textures, both green and yellow varieties of Zucchini Squash can be used (for the most part) interchangeably in either raw or cooked culinary applications. The skin is delicate enough that it need not be removed (unless its been allowed to reach full maturity on the vine, but these larger fruits are not commonly found for sale as their uses are limited).
Sliced it can be used raw and added to salads or cooked: sautéed, roasted, grilled, baked, fried or steamed. The larger more mature fruits are ideal for halving and hollowing, then stuffing and baking. Zucchini is also being used more and more as a pasta alternative (by spiralizing or slicing thinly), and it’s a longtime favorite of the baker – grated and added to breads, muffins, bars and even cookies – as well as fritters, pancakes, and soups. Sliced or chopped it can act as a topping to pizzas, flatbreads, pastas and rice dishes. Slice and layer with some of your other favorite summertime veggies and bake into a delicious summer gratin or lasagna.
Zucchini Nutrition: Very low in calories (1 cup sliced equates to only about 20 calories), Zucchini Squash is composed primarily of water (up to 95%) – making it a perfect summer refresher. It’s also a source of both Vitamins A & C (and some B vitamins), along with Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Dietary Fiber. The yellow varietals also derive their coloring from a higher Carotenoid content, an antioxidant that can also be converted into Vitamin A in the body.
Green and Yellow Eight-Ball Squash:
Yellow Eight-Ball: Its vibrant yellow skin is sweet and tender and gives way to a creamy white flesh, similar in flavor to the larger yellow Straight Neck Squash. Ranging in size from 2-4 inches, the larger they get the firmer they become (and making them more ideal for stuffing), while the smaller ones have the most flavorful and sweetest flesh. If they get too much beyond 4-5 inches in size they can develop a rougher drier woody texture with large and hard inedible seeds.
In the kitchen you can substitute Yellow Eight Ball in for Yellow Crookneck, Gold Bar, or Zucchini in most recipes. The more petite size are ideal for roasting or skewering and grilling, while the slightly larger sized ones are great for scooping out and stuffing and baking.
Green Eight-Ball: A deep green, with lighter green mottling, the Eight-Ball Squash gets its name from its almost perfectly circular shape. The flesh is a creamy ivory with the same moist seed cavity as the Yellow varietal. The flavor is sweet and buttery (similar to Zucchini) with nutty undertones that become more pronounced when they’re cooked. They typically run 2-4 inches in diameter, with the smaller ones having the richest and sweetest flavor and the larger size a more firm flesh making them perfect for stuffing.
In the kitchen Green Eight-Ball Squash fills a similar role, and can easily be substituted for Zucchini in most recipes, and may be baked, roasted, grilled, or steamed. As mentioned above, the firmer flesh of the slightly larger ones, make the perfect size for scooping them out and filling with your favorite combination of cheeses, meats, nuts, grains, or other veggies.
Green and Yellow Patty Pan Squash
Another Summer Squash mix favorite, Patty Pan is easy to spot by its distinct shape, resembling a squashed or flattened Pumpkin, or a sort of scalloped UFO (it’s name comes from its resemblance to a classic crimped baking pan), it is often also referred to as Scallop or Scallopini Squash, and it comes in Green, Yellow, and White varietals. With a crisp and succulent creamy white flesh, the smaller younger fruits (yes technically they are a fruit) have the moist seed cavities Patty Pan are known for – along with the slightly grassy and bright sweet flavor that is preferred (both Yellow and Green have similar flavor profiles, the Yellow having a slightly brighter first bite with mild peppery undertones). The larger and more mature the squash, the dryer the flesh and thicker the skin become, with their flavor sometimes even developing slight bitter undertones.
It’s the moistness of the barely developed seed cavities of the younger fruits that create a juicier and more refreshing flesh, and give them their powerful hydrating punch – perfect for the heat of Summer!
Patty Pan lends itself to a variety of culinary applications, as it can be baked, steamed, grilled, sautéed, or roasted, and its thin skin is delicate enough to consume. Like other Summer Squash, you can chop or slice it, use it whole, hallow and stuff it, or even puree and add to sauces, soups, curries, or juicing concoctions.
Summer Squash Nutrition: Low in calories and high in water content like all Summer Squash varietals, both the Eight-Ball and Patty Pan Squash varieties contain dietary Fiber, as well as Magnesium, Potassium, Folic Acid along with Vitamins A & C. The yellow varietals also contain additional antioxidants and nutrients, including Vitamins C & K within the skin (all varietals carry the majority of their nutrients within the skin, so its important to leave the skin on in order to receive the maximum nutritional benefit).
Getting Creative in the Kitchen with Summer Squash:
Some of our favorite appetizer and small plate recipes from the web – all starring Summer Squash of course! Clockwise from upper left:
Parmesan Summer Squash Chips:
Patty Pan Squash with Eggs:
Roasted Garlic Parmesan Zucchini, Squash, and Tomatoes:
Lemon Poppy Seed Summer Squash Bread:
Some of our favorite entres and small plate recipes from the web – all starring Summer Squash of course! Clockwise from upper left:
Summer Salad Recipe: Squash Ribbons:
Cheesy Zucchini and Summer Squash Pasta Bake:
Pesto Spaghetti with Summer Squash:
Potato, Squash & Goat Cheese Gratin: