If you have a bumper crop of squash, you already know that it’s a good problem to have. Squash is delicious and healthy, but there’s also a lot more to this fun veggie family than green zucchini squash and yellow squash. Although those two types of summer squash are super popular, there are many other types of squash you can know and love.
The first thing we need to do is answer this question: Is squash a veggie or a fruit? Mostly, we cook squash, so we tend to think of it as a vegetable. However, technically, squash is a fruit because it flowers and contains seeds on the inside.
The next question is about exactly what constitutes a squash. Squash, pumpkins, and gourds are frequently lumped together because they all come from the same plant family, which is Cucurbitaceae. However, gourds aren’t squash, but pumpkins are. Squash is a versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to casseroles and salads.
For the most part, squash is grown in the early summer and late spring. Depending on which variety of squash you’re growing, squash takes between 50 and 100 days to reach full maturity. Interestingly, both summer squash and winter squash are considered to be warm-weather plants, but many of them are available at the supermarket all throughout the year.
Some fun ways to prepare squash include making yummy side dishes. You can also make grilled squash, roasted squash, and pureed squash for soups. If you have a spiralizer, you can make zoodles (zucchini noodles). Let’s dive in and learn all about the different types of squash.
Winter Squash Types
Not to be confused with butternut squash, buttercup squash is named because it’s shaped like a cup. This squash has green skin and sweet orange flesh. You can slice buttercup squash and roast it for a yummy side dish, or you can puree the creamy flesh to make soup, then sprinkle the bowl of soup with parmesan cheese.
This squash has a rich history in the United States because acorn squash was one of America’s first types of squash. An acorn squash can weigh between one and three pounds. As suggested by the name, acorn squash is shaped like an acorn, and the skin is a combination of deep green and yellow.
This interesting squash looks similar to butternut squash, but it’s much smaller. Nevertheless, this is a variety of butternut squash because it was created from butternut squash seeds, making it one of the newer squash types. The flavor is sweeter and richer than that of butternut squash because it’s smaller and more concentrated.
Sweet dumpling squash
With its yellow, white, and green skin, the sweet dumpling squash is also popular for home décor. However, the mild and sweet flavor makes it perfect for eating. This squash is smaller than most winter squash because the optimal weight is less than one pound.
Sometimes you will see kabocha squash referred to as Japanese pumpkin. This small squash has green skin and tastes similar to acorn squash and butternut squash. With kabocha squash, the flavor is slightly more buttery than other winter squash varieties. You can eat kabocha squash’s skin.
Butternut squash is one of the most popular types of winter squash variety, and you can buy it throughout the year. Butternut squash is in season in the fall and winter, which is when the season reaches its peak. This squash has orange-ish skin and deep, bright orange flesh.
With its distinctive cylinder shape and thin green stripes along the ridges, delicata squash is a unique squash variety. One thing that makes delicata squash different from some other winter squash varieties is that you don’t have to peel it before you cook it. For winter squash, it’s fairly low maintenance, and it’s delicious for a roasted squash recipe.
Banana squash has a light orange-pink color, and this unique squash is a different type of squash that’s shaped like a cylinder. You can find banana squash year-round, but they’re considered to be a fall and winter squash because that’s when they’re in season. Banana squash can grow to be up to three feet long.
In the same family as buttercup, kabocha, and Hubbard squash, turban squash grows to weigh up to six pounds. The appearance is unique. It looks like a pumpkin wearing a hat (turban) or like a pumpkin with a tiny pumpkin growing from its head. Turban squash has a mild flavor, more so than other types of winter squash.
Many people love to roast spaghetti squash and scrape out the insides to get the flesh. Because it shreds up to look like spaghetti, this squash is often used as a substitute for pasta. Spaghetti squash is in season in the autumn, but you can find it in supermarkets year-round. To make spaghetti squash, roast it with the cut side down. When it’s fully cooked, scrape out the insides and serve the squash noodles with your favorite sauce.
It comes as a surprise to many people that their favorite fall fruit and decorating item is a squash variety. There are edible pumpkins and inedible pumpkins, so be sure you’re buying the correct type. Popular pumpkin varieties you can eat include Cinderella pumpkins and Sugar Pie pumpkins (also called sugar pumpkin).
It’s challenging to cook with Hubbard squash because it has tough skin. But once you get it opened up, you find a sweet flavor that makes Hubbard squash perfect for creamy soup recipes. The tender flesh is ideal for mashing or pureeing. A Hubbard squash can grow to weigh as much as 15 pounds.
This squash is a specialty produce in the Hubbard squash family. Red Kuri is round and medium in size, and the outside color is orange-red. The shape of Red Kuri resembles onions, and it’s a delicious squash to use to make a casserole recipe or soup recipe. You can also make roasted squash or grilled squash.
Because of its distinctive colors and markings, carnival squash is one of the most recognizable squash varieties. You will often see carnival squash in tabletop displays used as centerpieces in fall décor. However, they’re also super tasty, and they have a buttery sweet flavor. They are delicious roasted or made into soup.
Summer Squash Types
As one of the most recognizable summer squash varieties, yellow crookneck squash curves at one end and tapers. This squash is usually yellow, and the flavor is mild. While you can confuse yellow crookneck squash with yellow summer squash, it’s actually a different variety. This squash is excellent in stir-fry recipes and soups.
Zucchini green squash is available throughout the year, but they have the best flavor when they’re at their peak in the summertime. This squash is easy to grow at home, and you only need a couple of squash pants to have a bumper crop. Zucchini is wonderful sauteed, roasted, or raw in salads. You can also steam zucchini with yellow squash to make a delicious side dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
This squash is green and has a bumpy texture with ridges. Some people confuse chayote squash with peppers in the grocery store because it looks similar to many pepper varieties. Sometimes you’ll see chayote squash called vegetable pair.
While they’re not exactly a vegetable or squash, squash blossoms deserve a mention because you can do some fun things with them. Squash blossoms bloom on squash plants, and they’re usually yellow or orange. They’re delicious when you bread and fry them.
Patty pan squash
Pattypan squash is very recognizable because of its distinctive shape that looks like a tiny spaceship. A patty pan squash is oval-shaped and flat, and it has small spikes along the edges. Patty pan squash can be either yellow or green, and they can be cooked using any summer squash recipe. You can enjoy fried patty pan squash, or you can cut it up and steam it with your other summer squashes for a healthy side dish.
When someone says the word “squash,” the image that pops into your mind is likely the humble yellow squash. Straight-neck yellow squash is wide at the base and more narrow at the neck. The curve is less pronounced than that of crookneck yellow squash. One of the most popular southern side dishes is fried yellow squash. To make this recipe, cut the yellow squash into slices a quarter-inch thick (or slightly thinner). Then, fry on both sides until they’re golden brown. You can use a batter or fry them after dredging them in flour.
Although the color is lighter than that of a dark green zucchini, cousa often gets confused with round zucchini because it looks similar. The flavor is sweet and mild, and the thin skin is easy to cut through or peel. You can cook this squash using the same recipes that you use for other squash dishes.
One of the most beautiful squash varieties is the zephyr squash. This squash was developed as a cross between delicata squash, yellow crookneck squash, and yellow acorn squash. It’s green and yellow and shaped like a cylinder. The flavor is nutty and sweet.
Sometimes, round zucchini is called the fun name “eight ball zucchini.” This interesting squash is similar to the zucchini we’re all familiar with, and the flavor is about the same, too. A round zucchini is great for making stuffed squash. You can stuff them with more veggies and cheese for a wonderful vegetarian main dish meal.
Storing and Selecting Squash
When you’re at the grocery store choosing squash, a good rule of thumb is that you should look for heavy squash. However, this doesn’t mean to go for the biggest squash. If you’re growing squash at home and have a zucchini that grows to the size of a watermelon (they can get really big!), you’ll probably need to use it for soup, if it’s edible at all. Squash becomes tough once it gets too big. One solution is to cut tougher squash into small bite-sized chunks.
Avoid squash that has bruises or soft spots because this means it’s past its prime. Both summer squash and winter squash should be firm to the touch with no shriveling.
Winter squash stores well for several months, especially if they’re stored in a dry and cool area with good ventilation. Once you cut or peel the squash, it will keep in the fridge for up to five days. Summer squash needs to be kept in the fridge and eaten within seven days, whether it’s peeled and cut or unpeeled and whole.
Methods for Cooking Squash
There are tons of ways to cook squash, and you probably have a favorite squash recipe. You can make roasted squash with olive oil, sauteed squash, fried squash, and grilled squash. And, of course, fried yellow squash is a southern favorite that goes beautifully with fried chicken and other main dish meats. You can make a squash casserole, and you can add squash to hearty veggie soups. To make creamy soups, you can puree the squash in a blender or food processor. For salads, you can eat summer squash raw. However, winter squash needs to be cooked.
Squash Health Benefits
Summer squash is antioxidant-rich, and most summer squash—including zucchini and yellow squash—are low in carbohydrates. Winter squash has its own unique set of health benefits, and it’s also antioxidant-rich. Additionally, winter squash is an excellent source of fiber, particularly acorn squash and Hubbard squash. Winter squash has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in vitamins C and A.