Anyone who has seen our garden recently has also seen a whole mess of squash. Our plants are running wild! and I’ve been feasting on the outcome. We seem to have many varieties of squash (one which was identified as Costata Romanesca squash by Suzanne in a previous post) and I’ve been pretty mystified by lots of them. Though I can’t identify all of them, I do have a pretty surefire system for dividing them into two groups- summer and winter squash- which should dictate the way to cook them!
I visited my grandfather, a seasoned gardener, last weekend in Connecticut and picked his brain for information on the difference between summer and winter squash. I’d been kind of baffled by the names, because 1) it’s summer and 2) we clearly have both summer and winter squash in the garden. Turns out, the name has nothing to do with when the squash is grown- it has to do with whether it can be stored.
The main distinction is that summer squash have soft, edible rinds and should be eaten when the squash is still immature (this group includes the Costata Romanesca squash and other familiar faces like zucchini and yellow squash). The winter squash, on the other hand, takes its time to mature (usually 70-120 days after planting) and has a hard, inedible rind and hard seeds (so, you’ve got your pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash, kabocha, delicata, etc). It can be stored for a while after harvesting, while summer squash should really be eaten soon after it’s picked.
So, if you can pierce the squash’s rind with your thumbnail, it’s a summer squash and you can eat the whole thing (and soon)! I recommend slicing them into stir-fry, grilling, and even grating into baked goods. If you’ve got a winter squash on your hands, you’ve got some time to try and figure out what recipe you want to try. You can peel the rind and cut up the flesh and roast the pieces or roast the whole thing (I recommend pricking it several times for ventilation and putting it in the oven at 350 for about an hour, depending on its size). You can then scoop the flesh out (it’ll be nice and soft) and use it in almost anything- mixed with potatoes in a puree, added to soups, on it’s own with some brown sugar and cinnamon (that’s especially good on butternut squash), the options are pretty endless!
So, go forth and harvest our ridiculous amounts of squash! I might not know their names, but they’re all going to taste delicious.