Squash, especially zucchini, are very prolific producers! Easy to grow, each plant will produce several squash a day during peak season. Make sure you harvest summer squash when tender and still immature!
Squash are generally divided into two categories based on when they’re harvested and how they’re used:
Summer squash are harvested in the summer before they reach full maturity. Because they’re harvested early, their skin is edible and they have a relatively short shelf life. Summer squash varieties include zucchini, straightneck squash (a.k.a. “yellow summer squash”), and crookneck squash.
- Winter squash are harvested in autumn after or just before they reach full maturity. This leaves their skin inedible, but gives them a longer shelf life (some varieties are capable of keeping through the winter—hence the name “winter squash”). Winter squash varieties include pumpkins, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and acorn squash.
Can you believe that pumpkins and zucchini come from the same species of plant? That’s right—they’re both cultivated varieties (“cultivars”) of Cucurbita pepo. Despite the great diversity of squash, most commonly-grown cultivars belong to one of three species: Cucurbita pepo, C. moschata, or C. maxima. Over generations and generations, these plants have been cultivated to produce fruit in all kinds of shapes, colors, and flavors.
Thanks to their regular bumper crops, you usually only need one or two zucchini plants—and you may still find yourself giving zucchini away to neighbors or baking lots of zucchini bread!