Originating in Mexico and Central America, people have been eating squash for more than 7,500 years. Native Americans shared squash seeds in different varieties with European explorers, who then took the new crop back to their lands to grow.
With the spread of the squash plant to cultures globally and centuries of hybrid growing there are a wide range of squash varieties. There are two main types of squash – winter and summer. Among these two types are many varieties that, for the most part, have similar growing patterns
Originally the terms summer and winter squash applied to when mankind relied on seasonality and crop growth for survival. Summer squash referred to varieties that were harvested in the hot months and winter squash are varieties that harvest during cooler months. Transportation and logistics allow these types of squash to be available in grocery markets almost year round now.
Let’s take a look at popular types of summer and winter squash:
Zucchini – thin-skinned and easily bruised, these green tubular vegetables are packed with nutrition. Zucchini’s wide range of cooking and baking purposes make it a popular summer cooking staple.
Crookneck Squash – about six inches long with a slightly bent neck, these yellow squash are fast growing. If plants are continuously picked they will keep producing.
Pattypan Squash – a tender, flying saucer shaped squash that can be harvested when they’re a few inches wide. Pattypan squash is harvested after about 70 days of maturation.
Butternut Squash – a beige-colored, bell-shaped squash that is harvested from late fall through winter. The taste is compared to sweet potatoes and is commonly used in soup recipes.
Spaghetti Squash – golden-yellow in color and miniature watermelon shaped, spaghetti squash’s flesh separates from its rind in strands when cooked. Spaghetti squash can be stored for about a month in a cool, dry place.
Pumpkin – better known for fall décor, two-eight pound varieties offer flavorful flesh for cooking. Suggested pumpkin varieties for cooking include Small Sugar, Baby Pam, and New England Pie.