If you are thinking of a versatile vegetable to add to the garden, squash is one option that you should not ignore. More than just being delicious, it is abundant with vitamins and minerals, which will allow it to deliver endless health benefits. It can help to boost the immune system, manage diabetes, fight inflammation, strengthen the heart, prevent lung problems, improve blood circulation, and improve eye health, among others.
More than its health benefits, squash also enjoys versatility when it comes to its culinary applications. You can add it to your salad, make a veggie patty, or bake it with meat. Even the seeds are edible and can also be a source of essential oils. The shoots and the leaves are also edible, which means that no part will have to go to waste.
While there are different types of squashes that are available, you can generally categorize them into two groups:
- Summer Squash: A warm-season vegetable, it has a shell that is creamy white and soft. With this type of squash, there is no need to wait for maturity before you can harvest them. Take note that this squash comes with a shorter life span.
- Winter Squash: Its main difference with summer squash is the fact that it takes a longer time to mature, about three months more. The skin must be tough before harvest, which is an indication that it is already ripe.
In the rest of this post, we will have a closer look at the types of summer and winter squashes that you might want to consider planting in your garden.
As the name implies, this type of summer squash has a bright yellow skin but the flesh is white. The bottom is bulbous while the neck is tapered. It comes with thin and smooth skin, although some can be bumpy. There are two types of yellow squash and they differ on the shape of the neck – crookneck and straight neck. They differ only in appearance, but the taste is the same. It is best to eat it raw, but you can also incorporate it in sweet recipes.
This squash looks like a flying saucer, which is exactly the main reason why many people find it attractive. No wonder some also call it UFO squash! Because of its shape, it is a popular choice for a decorative piece. They are green, yellow, or a combination of the two colors. It is a tough variety of squash, which makes it perfect for culinary applications that require longer cooking time and higher temperature.
This straight-neck squash is easy to notice with its two-tone skin. The bottom is light green while the top is yellow. There are also white stripes on the skin. It is long and cylindrical. When it comes to cooking, it is best to use this if your recipe requires longer exposure to a high temperature since this is a tough variety. The zephyr squash is a hybrid of yellow acorn, delicata, and yellow crookneck squash.
It may look like a zucchini, but it is more squat and shorter. Also, another difference from zucchini is that it is sweeter and tender. There is no need to wait for a long cooking time for the squash to soften. It is not as popular as other common squashes, but it is common in Middle Eastern countries.
A common ingredient in Latin dishes, this is another squash variety that is similar to a zucchini. The flavor is mild, which makes it complement different vegetables. Some people also call it calabacita, which literally means small squash. It will make a great addition to soups, salads, and casseroles. To enjoy its optimal flavor, do not peel off the skin but rinse it before cooking.
This winter squash is one of the most common that you can find in supermarkets. True to its name, it is small and round, similar to an acorn. It is small and on average, will weigh only one to two pounds. The flesh is orange yellow, which makes it stand out in many dishes. You can roast, bake, steam, and saute this squash, and yet, you will have an assurance that it will taste great.
From its name, it is pretty much obvious that this winter squash variety looks like a banana, although it is larger. In fact, it can weigh more than 40 pounds. The length can be up to three feet while the diameter can reach eight inches. The skin is orange, pink, or blue. The flesh, meanwhile, is orange. It has an earthy and sweet flavor, similar to kabocha and butternut squash.
This is a compact and green variety that is similar to the appearance of kabocha squash. One thing that makes it different is the circular ridge at the bottom of the vegetable. The flesh has a vibrant orange color. When it is raw, the flesh will smell like cucumber. After cooking, the flavor becomes milder although it becomes a bit dry.
Also called butternut and Gramma pumpkin, it looks like a pear with a creamy and smooth skin. The flesh, on the other hand, is bright orange with minimal seeds. Its weight ranges from two to five pounds. From all the varieties of winter squash, this one is the sweetest. The flavor is similar to what you can expect from a sweet potato. The darker is the orange color, the sweeter is the squash.
Delicata, Bohemian, or Peanut Squash is creamy and tasty, making it another excellent choice for various recipes, especially for those that you bake or steam. On average, the length is anywhere from five to ten inches. The flesh is pale yellow while the skin is thin and edible, which is also the reason why it can be susceptible to rots and bruises.
With an average weight of eight to twenty pounds, this is one of the heaviest from the varieties of winter squash. It has an extra-hard rind, which allows it to last long, even in the extreme cold. With the proper external conditions, you can store this for up to six months without worrying that it will rot. It has a rich and sweet flavor, making it excellent for pies.
In Japanese, Kabocha means squash. It goes by other names, such as Hokkaido, Ebisu, or Japanese pumpkin. The skin is orange, gray, green, or blue. The flavor is sweet and nutty. Meanwhile, the texture is similar to pumpkin. The appearance of kabocha squash is similar to buttercup, except for the fact that the base points outwards.
This cylindrical squash is firm on the outside, but the flesh is moist. After cooking, the flesh will develop strands that will make it look like spaghetti, and hence, the name. This will be a great alternative for a vegan pasta. It has a nut-like and soft flavor. For the best taste, make sure that the squash is already at its ripest stage before you cook it.
This is a large and decorative variety similar to pumpkin that adores many homes during the Halloween season. The color can be white, orange, or green. The flesh, on the other hand, is golden yellow and has a flavor that will be reminiscent of hazelnut. You can easily slice off the top and use the squash as a soup bowl.
Squash is not only a delicious and versatile vegetable, but it packs an abundance of vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial for your health in more ways than one. With this, it is apparent that squash is one of the best vegetables to have at home. Nonetheless, before you start growing such, make sure to pick the right type.