Summer squash are not a significant part of Montana agriculture, but are widely grown in gardens throughout the state. Often people grow so many that they will secretly leave a few zucchini on a neighbor’s doorstep (editor’s note: guilty!).
When growing in your garden, direct seed or transplant summer squash 10 weeks before first frost. Summer squash need full sun and plenty of room to grow. Summer squash can be planted in large containers. Good container varieties include Early Yellow Summer Crookneck and Scallopine.
Zucchini is the most common variety of summer squash. Other varieties include: pattypan squash, crookneck squash, sunburst squash, yellow squash, chayote squash, and opo squash.
Summer squash are harvested in the summer and have thin skins and soft flesh. Winter squash, on the other hand, are harvested later in the season and have thick rinds that allow for preservation and consumption during the winter season.
While most squash varieties were brought from America to Europe, zucchini originated in Italy. Zucchini means “small squash” in Italian.
Summer squash are members of the Cucurbitaceae (Cucurbit) family, which includes melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and gourds.
Summer squash are in the vegetable food group. Botanically speaking, summer squash are the immature fruit of the plant.
When harvesting or purchasing, choose squash that have firm, undamaged, and glossy skin. Large summer squash are often toughand bitter, but they can be used in recipes that call for shredded squash, such as zucchini bread. Usually squash between 4-10 inches have good flavor and are not as fibrous.
Summer squash are a good source of vitamin C and potassium, and contain manganese and vitamin B6. Vitamin C helps your body heal from cuts, scrapes and even broken bones! Manganese plays an essential role in such functions as the formation of bones and healthy skeletons.