NGA Articles: Getting to Know Squash

Getting to Know Squash

By: National Gardening Association Editors

There are three main types of squash--summer, winter and pumpkin. Summer squash are harvested when tender and still immature. They're usually separated into yellow, straight or crookneck varieties; green zucchinis; green, white or yellow-skinned, scallop-shaped, "patty-pan" fruits; or small, round, softball-sized types. Summer squash grow fast, usually maturing within 2 months of planting, and continue to produce all season long. They are prolific, reliable producers, but they don't store well, so use them right away.

Most winter squashes are vine-type plants whose fruits are harvested when fully mature. They take longer to mature than summer squash (3 months or more) and are best harvested once the cool weather of fall sets in. They can be stored for months in a cool basement-hence the name "winter" squash. It's easy to get lost in the maze of winter squash types, so here's a quick reference of the most popular types, along with their botanical names.

Squash Types

Acorn (Cucurbita pepo) - black, dark green or white skin and is acorn-shaped, ribbed fruit. Pale yellow flesh.

(Cucurbita maxima) - green or orange turban-shape, with a "button" on the end of the fruit. Dry orange flesh.

Butternut (Cucurbita moschata) - bottle-shaped fruit with smooth, tan-colored skin at maturity. Moist orange flesh.

Delicata (Cucurbita pepo) - small, oblong green and yellow striped fruits with sweet, pale yellow flesh.

Hubbard (Cucurbita maxima) - large, blue or green oval-shaped fruits with a long neck and dry yellow or orange flesh.

Kabocha (Cucurbita maxima) - "buttercup" like fruits with sweet, dry flesh. The latest winter squash craze.

Spaghetti (Cucurbita pepo) - oblong, tan-colored fruits have yellow flesh with a stringy texture.

Squashes need a lot of growing space. Summer squashes tend to stay in a bush form, but still need several feet in diameter to spread out. Bush types of winter squash exist, but most of the best-flavored winter squashes produce at least 6-foot-long vines.

A Squash for All Tastes

The days to maturity--( )--are from seeding in the garden until first harvest.

'Black Zucchini' (53) Zucchini; Standard summer squash producing tons of slender, dark green fruits on bush plants. For a with sweet, dry yellow flesh. Great for storage and baking.

'Burgess Buttercup' (95) Buttercup; 3- to 5-pound winter squash with fiberless, sweet orange flesh.

'Butterbar' (49) Straight-neck; Hybrid summer squash producing tons of golden yellow-skinned fruits.

'Cocozelle' (55) Zucchini; Italian heirloom summer squash with green and white stripes and good flavor.

'Cream of the Crop' (85) Acorn; An AAS-winning hybrid bush winter squash; produces 3-pound fruits with white skin and golden flesh.

'Delicata' (100) Delicata; 8-inch-long winter squash with sweet yellow flesh produced on a semi-bush plant.

'Hokkori' (95) Kabocha; Hybrid winter squash producing 4-pound fruits with flaky, sweet, dry deep orange flesh.

'Spaghetti' (88) Sphagetti; Ivory-colored winter squash produces 4- to 5-pound fruits with stringy yellow spaghetti-like flesh. Try it covered with pasta sauce!

'Sunburst' (50) Scallop; Hybrid yellow-skinned summer squa variety.

'Waltham' (105) Butternut; Five-pound, light tan winter squash fruits with smooth, orange flesh.

'Yellow Crookneck' (50) Crookneck; Smooth, yellow-skinned summer squash with a delicate texture and flavor.

Photography by Suzanne DeJohn and Sabin Gratz/National Gardening Association



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