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Peak Pick: Summer Squash

By James Parker, July 6, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by James Parker
Summer squash is the over achiever of any garden. Planted early or late, there is always a point in the season where a single plant will produce more than any reasonably sized family could ever hope to consume. It’s also one of the most commonly planted home garden vegetables so sometime around the middle of summer, my neighborhood (like most around the country I suspect) becomes a surplus summer squash exchange where gardeners compete to place their excess with an ever dwindling list of willing recipients. The peak production period for most any plant is like this, but summer squash is in a class by itself — once the plant is established it seems there is no limit to the amount of squash it can produce. Amber and Stella of Balakian Farms — Reedley, California Commercial summer squash production is similarly feast or famine. In the cold winter months, production settles into the southernmost parts of the U.S. and Mexico, and supplies are extremely tight and unpredictable. As winter gives way to spring, summer squash production migrates northward to virtually all parts of the U.S. By mid-summer, it’s everywhere and the summer surplus exchange plays out on a much larger and grander scale. The multiple harvest aspect of summer squash is very attractive to growers — it is not uncommon for a single planting to yield a dozen or more harvests. Early in the season the harvest of squash blossoms for stuffing is another source of income. Zucchini Blossoms — Yolo County, California The term “summer squash” is actually a designator for what stage the squash is harvested. Summer squash is harvested young — or at an immature stage as compared to winter varieties. There are hundreds of commercial varieties of summer squash produced in the U.S. Most are variations on the three most common zucchini, yellow and round flat types (like the yellow sunburst). In the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in heirloom varieties and cross breeding with modern types to develop new breeds. Some farmers have also taken to harvesting traditional winter squash varieties at an early “summer” stage – producing “summer style” winter squash with very interesting flavor characteristics. “Summer-stage” winter squash — Reedley, California The peak for commercial (and garden) summer squash production coincides with grilling season, so my most common way to prepare squash in the summer is grilling (either chunked in kebabs or sliced into thick strips for direct grilling). When I haven’t fired up the grill, a simple sauté in olive oil with the last of the fresh oregano from my herb garden is my inside back up. There is also the shredded cheddar on top of sautéed squash version from my childhood that seems to work with my kids as well. 2010 harvest of pumpkins, “hard” summer and winter squashes My new strategy for using my surplus summer squash is to plant later – this enables me to mooch off of my neighbors in the early summer and still have a crop of my own. I also discovered that summer squashes that I allow to stay on the plant continue to grow to truly mutant proportions and, like their winter cousins, develop a hard outer shell. This has given me a whole new generation of Halloween carving squashes to experiment with in the fall. Common varieties like Zucchini, Scaloppini and Sunburst are easier to carve than many of the other hard squash varieties and the range of shapes and sizes make for a fun blend with pumpkins. Also remember if you are removing young pumpkins off the vine to enable the plant to focus on a single pumpkin, they too can be prepared like summer squash. How do you prepare your surplus summer squash? My neighbor gardeners and I would all love to know.
Category: Food & Recipes

 

23 Comments

Comments

Joyce says ...
When we have too much, I like to sneak summer squash into fritters or muffins (the best is chocolate!), or dehydrate them like chips! The sweetness becomes more pronounced, and the crunch is a nice treat.
07/06/2010 11:21:00 PM CDT
Justin says ...
Last year, I happened to have a couple of very large zucchini that I picked-up at a farmstand towards the end of the summer and we just weren't going to get around to eating them. On a whim, I made a batch of zucchini relish from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I ended-up with about 3 jars. It turned out to be one of the most popular items in my pantry amongst friends and family. Had I known that, I would have made more! My wife adds it to all her sandwiches...not just hot dogs. The recipe makes a ton but can be scaled-down fairly easily and you don't really have to can it since it will last a long time in the fridge. It probably would freeze fairly well in small portions. The recipe is on their website: http://www.freshpreserving.com/pages/recipe/215.php?recipe=259
07/07/2010 1:30:38 PM CDT
Cooking4carnivores says ...
You can't beat a simple golden fried zucchini - http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2009/04/golden-zucchini.html And summer squash is great with other veggies and couscous - http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2009/07/boost-boost-your-couscous.html
07/07/2010 2:04:39 PM CDT
Joni Nelson says ...
Zucchini blossoms stuffed with cheese (Blue cheese is my personal favorite), dipped in batter (egg, half-&-half, flour, a smidge of salt), and sauteed in a non-stick pan with a tiny bit of olive oil until lightly browned--FABULOUS. If more baby zucchinis appear on the bushes than we would ultimately be able to eat, I cut those in half, dip into the batter, and saute with the blossoms. Eat while still hot, or at least war. Good with any meal, any time.
07/07/2010 5:04:51 PM CDT
Jennifer says ...
My favorite preparation is the skillet saute with squash, olive oil, onions, and garlic.
07/08/2010 4:15:06 PM CDT
Marina says ...
My grandmother has been making 'Zucchini pancakes' since I was little. Just add grated zucchini - as much of it as you want -into your pancake batter, and grill a few minutes on each side, the same as you would regular cakes, until golden. We eat them with sour cream, or honey. They are delicious and much healthier that regular pancakes.
07/09/2010 9:52:41 AM CDT
Lisa says ...
I slice summer squash and zukes thinly, stirfry with garlic, onions, olive oil, ginger if I like, salt, pepper, and any other mix of vegetables I have (I like mushrooms and carrots or bamboo shoots). Also can add tofu for a main dish; drizzle with lemon when done. It's quick, easy and healthy. Last year I had an excess so I sliced and froze. This year I'm only growing ONE yellow squash plant. I still have plenty of frozen zucchini from last year...I need to make that into breads fast!
07/09/2010 11:32:16 AM CDT
Brandon says ...
My grandmother makes jar after jar of (Hot) Squash Relish. (It packs some heat because she chops a couple of habanero an jalapeno peppes into it during the canning process.) It's sweet, spicy, and tangy (vinegar) all at the same time! I love it on my morning eggs with a sliced heirloom tomato on the side.
07/09/2010 11:34:25 AM CDT
Mom's Cafe Home Cooking says ...
I dry then powder excess summer squash. It adds flavour to dishes like meatloaf and the powder acts as a thickener for soups and stews.
07/09/2010 12:58:07 PM CDT
Heidi says ...
I have a julienne peeler and make shredded zucchini matchsticks for my salad. Even my non-zucchini eating friends like it! Of course traditional zucchini bread is a treat too.
07/09/2010 10:04:23 PM CDT
Meredith Clark says ...
Zucchini Squash casserole, what else?! Mmmmmmmmmm
07/09/2010 10:38:25 PM CDT
LindaLea says ...
I love to slice yellow and green zucchinis into quarter pieces. I add 1 diced onion, diced tomatoes, diced celery. Simmer in a non-metal pan. Add a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash -Onion & Herb. Delicious!!! How much you use of each item depends on your individual tastes. Some like more zucchini, others like more tomatoes or onion, or celery. You decide.
07/11/2010 10:26:54 AM CDT
Carolyn says ...
I love to prepare squash and zucchini on the grill. Just add a little olive oil and grill to perfection. During the winter months, I do the same just in the oven. So simple and easy, yet so delicious.
07/11/2010 2:11:41 PM CDT
Satya says ...
We grate the extra zucchini and then freeze it in measured portions for zucchini bread throughout the winter!
07/12/2010 1:39:32 PM CDT
Tina says ...
Take your excess produce to a local pantry and join your local Plant A Row For The Hungry, PAR. I planted four rows of squash this year and I have been taking about 3 boxes a week for the past three weeks to food pantry. I also take some to the local senior and of course give some to friends.
07/12/2010 3:35:58 PM CDT
Isabelle says ...
I have some crook neck squash growing and so far, so good. I love the orange yellow flowers.
07/12/2010 5:07:55 PM CDT
Carolyn WV says ...
Dice or small cube summer squash, onion, banana pepper coat lightly with corn meal and fry in a little olive oil. Egg plant and zuccini are equally delicious prepared this way.
07/13/2010 2:06:55 PM CDT
Sandra says ...
Saute 4 of any spicy sausage in a stainless steel skillet unti there is a brown coating on sausages and pan. Remove sausages. Peel 4 med potatoes into pan and drippings. Saute med low heat with lid on. Add about one cup chopped onion and 2 med summer squash. cook till veggies are soft and potatoes are done. Serve on warm platter with sausages.
07/16/2010 12:09:34 PM CDT
Cecelia says ...
Years ago I used to go to a Fairgrounds, where a lady,known as the Zucchini Lady, demonstrated a thousand and one ways of using zucchini. Two ideas I used for years was a Lemon Chiffon pie with grated zucchini in it and another one was zucchini and peanut butter blended together - a way of getting more vegetables in your children and it keeps the peanut butter from drying out too. With the blossoms that are filled with different kinds of cheese, a friend taught me how he wraps them in wonton skins and deep fries them until crisp. Then dipping them in Chinese or Mexican sauces - your company's choice. Yum!
07/16/2010 1:16:34 PM CDT
Andrea Thompson says ...
Can I pick the squash with the blooms on the end or do i need to wait until the bloom fall off?
06/02/2013 11:07:04 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ANDREA - You can totally pick the squash with the flowers attached...some people will add these as an edible garnish as well!
06/03/2013 5:00:07 PM CDT
rick says ...
Where is a good place to get blossoms in late May and Early June? We have a Whole Foods store in Gainesville.
04/29/2014 7:26:59 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@RICK - I wasn't able to find a store in Gainesville but give the closest store to you a call to see if this is something they normally have in stock!
04/29/2014 10:35:05 AM CDT