The 14 Best Types Of Squash To Grow (And How To Cook With It)

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At the supermarket or farmer’s market, you’ll see squash in all shapes and colors. Whether cooking up your favorite summer recipes, baking pies, or displaying squash for fall decoration, there are hundreds of varieties of squash, divided into two main categories: summer and winter squashes.

It is easy to tell the difference between the two types. Summer squash is harvested in the hot season and does not last long due to its soft outer skin. We are talking about squash such as zucchini, yellow crookneck and pattypan. The second type is a winter squash, which is harvested in the fall and has a tough rind so it can be stored for months. The bark of winter squash is generally not edible. These are types such as Butternut, All Kinds of Pumpkin, and Hubbard Squash.

How to grow squash?

Many types of squash are very easy to grow in your garden, but you’ll need lots of space! The vines can spread in all directions from three to 15 feet long, depending on the variety. Grow squash from seed, rather than from young transplants, which don’t always like their roots disturbed and can be slow to take off (plus seeds are much cheaper). Be sure to plant the seeds in full sun (6 hours or more of direct sunlight) once all danger of frost has passed, as they don’t germinate well in cold soil and won’t tolerate even a light frost.

Also read the package label to make sure you put your seeds in the ground early enough for a harvest; look for “days to maturity” on the label, then count down from the earliest expected frost date in your area. If you plant too late in the season, your squash won’t be ready to pick until the cold weather sets in. A time-release granular fertilizer can help feed them throughout the season.

How to harvest squash?

At harvest time, pick summer squash when they are 6 to 8 inches long (the ideal size depends on the variety, so read the package label for recommendations). In general, don’t let them get huge as they tend to be seedy and squishy. For winter squash, they’re ready when the rinds are hard and can’t be easily pierced with your fingernail. The vine should also have turned brownish and died.

If you pick up summer squash at the market, look for firm squash with no punctures or soft spots, and use them within a week. For winter squash, be sure to choose squash that doesn’t have mildew spots or bumps in the bark, which will shorten their storage time. Store them in a cool, dry place (no fridge needed!) for several months. Generally, you’ll need to remove the rind from winter squash before eating it, but you can roast it with the rind intact to preserve moisture.

Here are the most common types of squash for all seasons:

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