Oh, squash! Let us count the ways we love you. Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall, there’s always at least one way to enjoy your sweet, nutty flavors, not to mention your silky, interesting textures and colors. After all, there are so many types of squash out there to choose from.
And did you know that just a few squash plants bear enough nourishment for weeks—with plenty leftover for sharing? That’s a good thing, because squash are a well-known crowd favorite and are the perfect thing to serve at any dinner party or holiday party. You’ll want to have it around, year-round!
Of course, not all squash are created equal. You’ve likely heard of the two main types—winter and summer—but do you know how (and why!) they differ?
Josh Kirschenbaum, vegetable account manager at PanAmerican Seed, has the answer we’ve been searching for.
“Summer squash is harvested in the warm weather months and doesn’t store for long,” he says. “Winter squash is harvested in the fall and has a hard rind, which allows it to keep well for months.”
It makes sense, and it’s important to know. Whether you’re planning on growing them yourself or purchasing a few of each variety at your local grocery store, you’ll want to be informed about what it is that you’re serving your guests or family. And while each type of squash cooks up in relatively the same way, there are a few noteworthy differences in taste, seasonality, and texture that you’ll want to stay in the know about.
Below, we’re sharing a few of our all-time favorite squash varieties for your garden (or your grocery list!). Both winter and summer squash are listed here, along with tips and tricks for growing them, roasting them, grilling them, and more!
Summer squash are bush types (with a few exceptions that grow on vines) that take up less room in your garden. “Less” is relative because most still need 3 to 4 feet of space in every direction to grow. Pick summer squash when it’s small and tender, not big and seedy. And keep picking to keep the harvest going!
Your grandma probably grew this reliable, high-yielding type in her back yard. Perfect for grilling, sautéing, or baking in quick breads and cakes.
Types of Zucchini: Bossa Nova, Easy Pick Green, Cocozelle, Gold Rush
Easy-to-grow (and super-cute!), these little guys are prolific producers. Roast or grill whole, or harvest them larger and stuff with rice, meat, and veggies.
Types of Rounded Zucchini: Eight Ball, Papaya Pear
With rounded bottoms and curved necks, these kinds of squash are best picked when no more than 4 to 6 inches long so they’re tender, not tough.
Types of Crookneck Squash: Yellow Crookneck, Gold Star
Patty Pan (or Scallop) Squash
These adorable, flying saucer-shaped squash can be grilled whole when 2 to 3 inches wide, or for larger fruits, dice and sauté or stuff.
Types of Patty Pan (or Scallop) Squash: Benning’s Green Tint, Sunburst
Many people think these squat, oval-shaped Middle Eastern types are the best-tasting of the summer squash. Steam, sauté, or stuff ‘em!
Types of Cousa Squash: Lebanese White Bush Marrow, Magda
These heat-tolerant Mexican heirlooms are fast growers. They grow on a vine (unlike most summer squash) that can quickly reach 10 feet long! Firm, sweet white flesh has more flavor than many other kinds of summer squash. Harvest when the fruits are the size of softballs.
The slender, curvy fruits of this Italian heirloom are firm and less seedy than many types. Train them up a trellis or fence so they don’t take over your garden because their 15-foot-long vines will crowd everything else out if you give them a chance! They taste best when harvested from 8 to 12 inches long.
Winter squash need room to stretch as their vines sprawl 10 to 15 feet in every direction; train the plants up a trellis or fence to conserve space. Harvest winter squash when the rind can’t be pierced with your thumbnail, around the time when the vines wither or even right after the first light frost.
Shaped like its namesake, these popular winter squash are reliable performers. They’re best baked or stuffed.
Types of Acorn Squash: Honey Bear, Jester
These easy-to-grow, turban-shaped squash store well into late winter and are buttery-sweet and satiny when baked and mashed.
Types of Buttercup Squash: Burgess, Bonbon
Butternuts typically are cylindrical with a bulb-shaped end and a classic, tan rind. You’ll need a few weeks of storage for the flavor to develop, but they last for months. Bake, sauté, or add to soups and stews.
Types of Butternut Squash: Honeybaby, Waltham
This heirloom variety has cream and green-striped oblong fruits about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. They’re extremely tender with a flavor reminiscent of sweet potatoes. Even the rind is edible.
Types of Delicata Squash: Bush Delicata
These multi-colored squashes with a squat little shape are both pretty and edible. They’re prolific producers, and they can be baked, grilled, steamed, or stuffed.
Types of Dumpling Squash: Sweet Dumpling, Carnival
These squash, popular in New England, have a tough, bumpy rind and range in color from orange to aqua blue. Some varieties weigh in at 12 to 15 pounds each! Roast the medium-sweet flesh, or put it in stews.
Types of Hubbard Squash: Red Kuri, Blue Ballet
These Japanese squash are similar in appearance to buttercup with a flavor that’s similar to sweet potatoes. Bake, steam or puree in soups.
Types of Kabocha Squash: Sunshine, Hokkori
Pumpkins are a type of winter squash, so they’re not just for carving! Bake, steam, put in stews, and roast the seeds.
Types of Pumpkin Squash: Pepitas, Super Moon, Hijinks
These oblong-shaped squash have stringy flesh you can scrape out after cooking to create spaghetti-like strands. Use as a pasta substitute or in soups.
Types of Spaghetti Squash: Sugaretti, Tivoli