10 Types of Summer Squash and How to Cook With Them
We tend to think of summer squash as two main types: zucchini and yellow squash. While these are good starting points, the season has so much more to offer. Before you head to the farmer's market this summer, learn all about the different types of summer squash, including how to choose, store, and cook with them. Plus get our favorite recipes for using up fresh summer squash.
How to Choose Summer Squash
Ripe squash will be firm, fairly heavy for its size, and vibrantly colored. Avoid squash with wrinkled skin or soft spots, as these are signs of age and rot. And when it comes to squash, size does matter. Smaller squash are usually more tender and have fewer seeds. The only exception is pattypan squash, which despite its small stature has fairly a dense interior.
How to Store Summer Squash
If you've stocked up on squash for the summer, store them properly to make the most of them. Squash should be wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in the crisper drawer of your fridge. They'll keep there for one to two weeks.
You can also freeze squash by slicing, blanching, and packaging it in freezer bags. Squash will last in the freezer for up to one year. Want to use your summer bounty for warm zucchini bread in the winter? You can store grated raw zucchini in the freezer too, just be sure to drain any excess liquid as it thaws.
And if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a few squash blossoms, use them as soon as possible with some of our top-rated squash blossom recipes.
Types of Summer Squash
1. Chayote Squash
This lesser known squash originated in Mexico, but it is now grown all over the world. Chayote is low in calories and has a taste similar to that of a cucumber, making it versatile for grilling, sautéing, baking, or using in soups. You can even use it to add a nice crunch to salads.
2. Cousa Squash
This short, squatty squash is lighter in color than zucchini, but can be used the same way. The only difference between the two is cousa is a little sweeter, and has a thinner skin. Cousa is commonly used in Lebanese and Syrian cuisines (you might even hear it referred to as Lebanese or Syrian zucchini). Because of their short and squatty shape, cousa squashes are great for stuffing with rice and meat.
Classic, green zucchini is a year-round staple, but when summer rolls around they're at their peak. Green zucchini has thin skin and firm flesh. Because of its mild flavor, it can be used in everything from muffins and breads to sautés and even as a substitute for pasta. Although zucchini can grow to the size of a baseball bat (seriously), stick to the smaller ones for better flavor and texture.
4. Yellow Zucchini
Zucchini comes in more than one shade, although green is by far the most common. But yellow zucchini, not to be confused with yellow squash, often makes an appearance at farmers' markets during the summertime. Unlike yellow squash, yellow zucchini (sometimes called "golden zucchini") doesn't taper at the neck. The only difference between yellow zucchini and green zucchini (besides the obvious color difference) is yellow zucchini is slightly sweeter in flavor. Use it any way you would use green zucchini — or mix the two for a colorful zucchini display.
5. Luffa Squash
Luffa squash, also known as (loofah), is an unusual variety of squash that will literally turn into a loofah if given enough time to mature. As it dries, the skin cracks away and the inside is revealed to be a wiry, scratchy object that is perfect for scrubbing. So if you want to eat them, you'll need to harvest them young, when they have the appearance of a ridged zucchini. Immature luffa can be eaten raw or used in place of zucchini in any recipe.
6. Pattypan Squash
Nope it's not a flying saucer, it's pattypan squash. These uniquely-shaped squashes come in a variety of colors from yellow to green or a mix of the two. They have scalloped edges, making them as fun to look at as they are to cook with. Despite its small size, pattypan squash have quite a crunch to it, making them great for salads or a quick sauté.
7. Round Zucchini
Round zucchini, also known as eight ball zucchini, have the same mild flavor and texture of green zucchini, but with a spherical shape. Their short and wide size makes them ideal candidates for stuffing, or you can use them anytime you'd typically used classic zucchini.
8. Yellow Crookneck Squash
Yellow squash comes in two varieties: straightneck and crookneck. Crookneck squash (pictured above) has a bulbous bottom and slender neck that's curved at the top. Crookneck squash has larger seeds and a thicker, waxier skin than many other squash varieties. It's typically harvested when it's more mature to produce a curved neck. This shape can make it harder to slice into rounds, so it's best to dice it and toss it with some diced zucchini for a colorful vegetable side.
9. Yellow Straightneck Squash
Straightneck squash closely resembles crookneck squash with its tapered neck and bulbous base, but its neck doesn’t curve as much, if at all. Like crookneck squash, straightneck squash has a bumpy skin, and a pale white flesh. Harvest this squash when it's 6-inches or shorter for the best flavor and texture. It makes a great complement to zucchini, and its uniform shape makes it easy to slice for use in squash casserole.
10. Zephyr Squash
This stunning squash is a hybrid between yellow crookneck, delicata, and yellow acorn squash. It's easy to recognize for its two-tone coloration: light green on the bottom and yellow on top. Zephyr squash is dense like pattypan, but easier to slice due to its shape. Use it as you would other yellow squash.