Sharing six of my favorite heirloom summer squash varieties plus two bonus varieties. I hope this article not only introduces you to some new varieties to try in your garden, but also offers a humble perspective on the superior nutrient concentration of homegrown heirloom vegetables and their versatility in the kitchen.
Summer Squash: Versatility
I’m that person who loves summer squash, so I grow a lot of it. I love the variety of shapes, sizes, and shades of green/yellow. I love that their versatility doesn’t stop in the garden, either. If you’re looking to add more veggies to your diet, look at summer squash and all its possibilities. You can eat it raw or cooked. Shave it as the base of a salad or shred it for baked bread. Hollow it out and stuff it, or puree it into a creamy dip. You can fry it into crispy fries, or layer and bake it au gratin style. Toss it onto pizza or into pasta. Hells bells, you can literally turn it INTO pasta!
Summer Squash: Grow Your Own
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as knowing you can make any of the above by simply strolling down to the garden and picking something you’ve grown yourself. Summer squash is a rewarding garden addition. It’s easy to grow and highly productive over a long period. It produces fruit rather quickly (7ish weeks) on large, impressive plants. Homegrown food is also arguably more nutritious, because it’s unarguably more fresh and naturally vine-ripened . Summer Squash makes you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. I love any plant that makes me look like an impressive gardener and feel super healthy while I’m at it.
Summer Squash Varieties
Summer squash comes in a number of varieties, and nearly all are varieties of Cucurbita pepo. Some of the shapes you’ll find are crookneck, straightneck, pattypan, ridged, round, and classic zucchini. Below are some of my favorite heirloom summer squash varieties. Why heirloom? Their exceptional taste and nutrition content!
Heirlooms typically (thought not always) taste better and are more nutritious than their hybrid counterparts. Modern hybrids are usually bred for improved traits like disease resistance, pest resistance, higher yields, larger and uniform sizes, growth rate, and the ability to ship long distances. While they’re superior in these categories, this has inadvertently led to a loss in both flavor and nutrient concentration. However, I must note that this is not always the case. Some modern carrots, for example, have more vitamin A, presumably because they were bred for a more-appealing, deep-orange color. And anecdotally, one of my all-time favorite cherry tomatoes for flavor is the hybrid, Sungold!
But typically, heirlooms win in both flavor and nutrient concentration. And ultimately, I find something utterly romantic about seeds that have been passed down for centuries. If gardeners/farmers thought these worthy of handing down for generations, they’re certainly worthy of my garden.
Fordhook Zucchini Squash
Fordhook is a classic, dark-green zucchini. I might be boring, but I love a classic courgette. I prefer the the straight uniformity of zucchini for slicing, dicing, and zoodling. This variety has creamy white flesh and it freezes quite well. It’s a vigorous bush that dependably produces delicious fruits.
Golden Zucchini Squash
The bright golden-yellow hue of this zucchini is everything. Not only is it stunning, this brilliant sunny hue makes them easier to spot (i.e., no massive missed zucchinis). It’s also worth noting that this is a true zucchini. Usually, most yellow squash at the market is either crook neck or straight neck. They have fatter bottoms that taper toward the neck, slightly bumpy skin, and usually more seeds. Because this is a true zucchini, it has that great uniformity and smooth skin. This variety is typically quite slender, which lends beautifully to slicing into rounds. It retains some yellow throughout the flesh, which provides a lovely presentation. This is also one of my earliest producers, though it’s not as prolific as other varieties.
Patisson Golden Marbre Scallop Squash
An adorable little ball of sunshine, this French pattypan squash just makes me smile. The fruits have a bright lemony hue when small, eventually turning into a golden orange. You can leave them to mature into winter squash, but I prefer them small (just a few inches). They’re excellent grilled and/or stuffed in their cheery flower shape. The plants are behemoths . . . tall and beautiful.
Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash
Where Pattison’s shape is cute and cheery, Bennings is almost other-wordly. It has a dreamy pale green hue that I just swoon over. It’s an excellent producer, easy to grow, with mild flavor. This variety is over 100 years old! The fruit can grow quite large for a scallop-shaped squash, which is really fun. This squash holds up well to grilling and is another excellent stuffer.
According to Baker Creek, this is their most popular summer squash. It literally looks just like a lemon! It’s a justified whimsical addition to any garden for that reason alone. However, it also has great yields and pest resistance. It’s the latest producer in my garden, and one I always look forward to.
Ronde De Nice Squash
A centuries-old French heirloom that is absolutely delicious. It’s a pretty pastel green that’s perfectly round. Vigorous and quick growing, it’s one of the earliest producers for me. I like to pick some when they’re really little because they’re just so cute! Once larger, they are ideal for hollowing out and stuffing. This variety also has great pest resistance.
Bonus: Costata Romanesco Squash
This is a bonus, because although it’s not necessarily one of my all-time favorites, I’m in the minority, because most people love this summer squash. This famous Italian/Roman squash has a firmer texture than traditional zucchini and a nutty flavor. Some say it has the best texture and flavor of all time! When sliced, it looks like stars due to the ridges, which makes a great addition to any dish.
Bonus: Zucchino Rampicante Squash
A bonus because one of these things is not like the other. Whereas most summer squash grow on bush plants, Zucchino Rampicante is a vining zucchini and pumpkin. While part of the Cucurbitaceae family, it’s classified as C. moschata versus C. pepo. This particular variety is delicious eating both as a summer squash and a winter squash. The mature fruit grows quite long (I’ve had some as long as 3–4 feet)!
Do you have any varieties to add to this list? Drop me a line or leave a comment below. I love trying new varieties!