Summer squash

Summer squash grow during the frost-free months of summer, with harvests typically possible from mid-June through the first fall frost at Chert Hollow Farm. This crop has a well-deserved boom-or-bust reputation. Squash plants are susceptible to many pest and disease problems, but when managed well and conditions cooperate, they are capable of churning out large quantities of food. Summer squash are best used within about a week of harvest, so when production goes into overdrive, the time to get moving in the kitchen is not far behind. To minimize overgrown squash, we harvest every 1-2 days, so squash going out in a distribution may have spent up to a few days in storage.

Many folks before us have faced mountains of summer squash on the counter, so an abundance of recipes and inspirations exist to feature this oh-so-versatile vegetable. Nevertheless, week after week of squash can get tiring, so we try to schedule our squash plantings to provide a break from squash for a few weeks in the summer. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t; sometimes there’s abundance, sometimes there’s not.

HANDLING & STORAGE
Summer squash have delicate skins that are scratch easily, so they are best handled gently. The ideal temperature for storing summer squash is about midway between refrigerator temperature and room temperature, i.e. around 50ºF. Overall, they are better off in the refrigerator than on the counter; refrigerated, they should last up to a week. If the refrigerator is full, they can survive on the counter for couple of days. In a prime spot on the counter, they’ll remind you that they’re there and need to be used.

IN THE KITCHEN
Any recipe that calls generically for “zucchini” can be made with any variety of summer squash that we provide. Though there are subtle flavor differences between varieties, size is a usually a bigger consideration than variety when determining suitability for a particular culinary use.

Small squash: Small squash (up to 6″ or so)  have excellent flavor and are well suited to being featured in simple presentations. Can be used in most of the “medium to large” squash recipes, as well, but more of them will be needed.produce_zuke_skillet_cook

  • One of the best ways to appreciate the flavor is to slice & pan cook squash in a lightly greased cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat until lightly browned on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy. A bit of cheese melted on top can be tasty, too.
  • Thin squash slices are great on pizza.
  • Can be eaten raw on salad, though we generally prefer our squash cooked.

Medium to large squash: 

True monster squash: Though we regularly see these at farmers markets in the region, really big squash with tough skins and big seeds are best turned into eggs or pork.

PRESERVATION
Given summer squash’s reputation for abundance, there  are many ways to preserve summer squash.
— Dehydration produces a stable, versatile ingredients for winter pastas & pizzas:

produce_squash_dried
— Freezing: shred and blanch; we tried skipping the blanching step, but found that the quality quickly degraded with thawing. This is great for winter zucchini bread and soups.
— Zucchini relish: we like this recipe, which is good for canning.

VARIETIES WE GROW

  • Costata Romanesco: Has a reputation for being the tastiest summer squash variety that there is. Monstrous vining plants have a way of taking over.
  • Tender Grey: Pale green, with a flavor that we like about as much as Costata Romanesco.
  • Success PM Strightneck Yellow Squash: A lovely & tasty yellow squash produced on plants that can put up with (almost) anything.