Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What’s Growing ~ Summer Squash

This year I planted 6 plants representing 5 different varieties of Summer Squash, even though I’ve already proven that ONE plant is more than enough to keep me supplied with zucchini the entire summer. Summer squash are generally divided into four groups -- crookneck, zucchini (green and yellow), straightneck, and scallop (pattypan). I enjoy growing a large variety of colors and shapes. I’ve never had much luck with the crooknecks, but I just love the round Eight Ball or French Ronde de Nice varieties. That’s what usually traps me into overplanting….variety. And they compost well, so who cares. The only real consideration is that they take up a lot of room, so next year I will probably only use one bed for them not two. However this year I didn’t have any spring crops and had plenty of room for fast growing hot weather crops. Have I just spent a whole paragraph justifying my reasons for overloading myself with squash?

My squash plants are beautiful this year. Not a smidge of powdery mildew to be seen. I planted the Borage between them. The honey bees found the Borage last week, and I haven’t had a single squash go unpollinated. When I run out of chores in the garden I just sit and watch the honey bees and the bumble bees in their ecstatic frenzy.

The varieties I chose were Burpee Hybrid (standard favorite), Burpee Golden Zucchini, Magda which is a light green striped squash, Eight Ball, and a green Patty Pan variety.

Although summer squash has both male and female flowers (recognizable by the tiny squash right at the base of the flower), only the female flowers produce fruits. If you end up with only one sex of flowers, you are in trouble. But, if you have too many of one or the other, you can always eat them. Squash blossoms are edible flowers, raw or cooked. The blossoms are an important part of Native American cooking and are also used in many other parts of the world.

Do not allow summer squash to become large, hard and seedy because they sap strength from the plant that could better be used to produce more young fruit. Pick oversized squash with developed seeds and hard skin and compost them (or feed them to the chickens). Most elongated varieties are picked when they are 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Patty Pan types are harvested when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. I always pick small. My theory is, I can eat 3 small ones today, or wait a day and eat 3 really big ones!

Zucchinis are notorious for being the veggie that every home gardener overplants and ends up with too much of. We all know that sinking feeling when we look at the squash patch from a different angle and notice that lurking beneath the canopy of leaves is a behemoth resembling a baseball bat that swallowed a watermelon. How did THAT get there? Was it aliens? Or did it eat all the other zucchinis? And more importantly, how long has it been there, and how did I miss it? This is an excellent reason to keep your squash patch well weeded!

We’ve all heard the joke that in the summer country folk roll up their windows and lock their car doors so no one leaves zucchini in there. Even at our house there have been summers where we had to enact the policy of “No one leaves the driveway without a zucchini” which has been applied to campaigning Politicians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the UPS driver. In fact, August 8th is Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day. A few suggestions from creator’s Tom Roy's "List for successful sneaking of Zucchini or otherwise ridding yourself of unwanted surplus summer squash":
1) Carefully place a dozen or more zucchini in a large, sturdy black plastic trash bag, and then add a couple layers of unwanted clothing. Drive to nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army; hand over bag to nearest volunteer. Politely refuse any offered receipt. Leave quickly.
2) Look for out of the way places which have signs posted, "Clean Fill Wanted."
3) Under light of full moon, either stark naked or wearing full army camouflage, carrying a machete or any garden implement, run amuck in your zucchini patch, cutting and slashing. Be sure to thank Mother Nature for her bounty before and after this cathartic experience.

  • Fun Squash Facts:
  • "Squash" comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means "a green thing eaten raw."
  • Squashes are one of the oldest known crops originating in the America southwest up to 10,000 years ago.
  • Explorers brought them back to Europe where many new varieties were established. The familiar Zucchini style is Italian and was returned to America in the 1920’s by Italian immigrants.
  • The skin and rind of summer squash are rich in the nutrient beta-carotene, but the fleshy portion of this vegetable is high in water content (95 %), thus low in calories (about 25 calories each).
  • Squashes are a good source of minerals, and vitamin A, with moderate quantities of vitamins B and C
  • Zucchini is fat free, cholesterol free, low in sodium, rich in manganese and has more potassium than a banana.
  • The World Record length for a Zucchini is 69 and a half inches in length. The record weight is 65 pounds.

Battered Squash Blossoms

(With or Without Stuffing)
Source: the University of Illinois Extension

The Batter:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup fat-free chilled milk, beer or water

Cheese-Mushroom Stuffing:

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

2 tablespoon mushrooms, finely chopped

1 tablespoons fresh basil or parsley, minced16 large squash blossoms, washed

Canola oil for frying

1. Prepare the batter first. Sift together dry ingredients, then whisk in milk, beer or cold water until smooth. Cover and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Leftover batter can be stored for up to two days. If it is too thick after refrigeration, add a few drops of water to return to original consistency.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing. In a bowl combine the ricotta cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, mushrooms and basil. Open the blossoms and spoon about one 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture into the center of each. Avoid overfilling the blossoms. Twist the top of each blossom together to close. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

3. Pour the oil into a skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat over high heat until a small cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown within seconds.

4. Briefly dip each stuffed blossom into the batter, then carefully slip into the hot oil. Cook until golden on all sides, about three minutes total cooking time. Add only as many blossoms at a time as will fit comfortably in the skillet. Transfer with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain briefly.

5. Sprinkle with salt, if desired and serve immediately.

NOTE: In place of the cheese-mushroom stuffing, try another of your favorite bread or meat stuffings.

Zucchini Bread
Source: Mom

Grease and flour 2 bread loaf size pans or 4 small loaf pans

Beat together until light:

3 eggs

1 Cup oil

2 Teaspoon vanilla

2 Cups sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla


2 Cups shredded zucchini

1 Cup crushed pineapple drained

3 Cups flour

2 Tablespoon soda

1 Teaspoon salt

1/4 Tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

1 Cup raisins

1 Cup chopped nuts

Bake 1 hour 15 minutes at 350


  1. It's the butter we fry 'em in that adds calories ! Your summer squash looks great but don't bring 'em with you if you ever come down here. Horses are our payback answer to summer squash. You and Tim would look awfully funny going home with a horse in the passenger seat, I think ! :)

  2. I have to ask... are your squash heterosexual? How are your neighbor's "girls" coming along?

  3. Mine are very heterosexual. The neighbor's girls realised the futility of their path, and have allowed the existance of male flowers in what looks to be a purely Amazonian set up and they are now dominating their corner of the garden with a glut of yellow squash babies.