Growing Squash for Cooking

Growing squash is easy and there are many summer and winter varieties to grow and cook with.

| May 2013

The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook (Workman Publishing, 2012) combines two books — a garden guide and a cookbook — in one. Authors Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman show you how to grow, harvest and store the very ingredients used in their recipes. In this excerpt taken from chapter 4, “The Crops,” find tips on growing squash and how to cook with them. 

You can purchase this book from the CAPPER’s store: The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.

More from The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook:

Baked Spaghetti Squash Recipe with Cheese
Beet Salad Recipe
Grow Lettuce and Enjoy Your Own Salad Greens  

Growing Squash: Summer Squash

Gardeners love to grow summer squash because they’re an easy crop and so productive. Most of them are bush types rather than vining ones, and can take their place in a plot where space is an issue. There are a number of different shapes, from good ol’ striped green zucchini, to the classic yellow crooknecks, to the pattypans (like little flying saucers) and spherical ones like Ronde de Nice. The edible blossoms are great for stuffing.

Grow. These are grown like any of the cucurbits. Although less space-consuming than squash that grow on long vines, individual plants are somewhat large and sprawling and need to be planted three feet apart. As they mature and their central stems elongate, they tend to sprawl into the paths. This can be avoided by succession planting, with fresh new transplants ready to go in around midsummer. Though you’ll need to weed around them at the start, the big leaves will eventually shade out most competing plants.

Harvest. Success with summer squash, as with many summer crops, depends on a good harvesting program. This is the season of abundance, when plants and their fruits grow quickly. Turn your back on the zucchini patch for a week, and you’ll find giant green submarines cruising beneath the broad leaves. I once tried stuffing one of these monsters with a rice and cheese concoction and yes, it was good eating, but not good enough to repeat often. Besides, big squash slow down the production of the small, tender ones that cooks prefer. Summer squash are particularly tasty when picked small, but they don’t have to be the dainty 2-inch babies you sometimes find on restaurant plates. Even a 10-inch zucchini or yellow crookneck tastes just fine, though we usually harvest our zucchini at no more than 6 inches long.

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