“Winter" Squash vs “Summer" Squash - What is the difference?

Wait a minute, winter squash doesn’t grow in the winter? Why is it called, “winter" squash, and why are fall and winter recipes packed full of winter squash? We know this can be confusing!

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Let's clarify. Winter squash are slow growing, and are harvested in the late summer through the fall.  They have a thicker skin that toughens into a rind that allows for the squash to be stored and enjoyed through the winter. Most of the common winter squash varieties found in home gardens are vining plants which work great if you are trying to maximize space in your garden!

Vining plants expand in one direction when they grow and can be directed to grow away from other plants while bush plants expand equally in all directions and take up more space.

Summer squash are quick-growing (and typically prolific) producers of soft fruit (yes, squash are fruit). The most common summer squash that are found in home gardens are bushing plants.

How to select the squash that is best for you:


If you are limited on space, (Avalow Narrow beds have enough space for 1 summer squash plant), we would suggest planting one summer squash paired with one winter squash, so that you are getting the most out of your garden. For those of you with more space, (Avalow Classic), we would still suggest one summer squash plant and two winter squashes. Winter squash are delicious but very slow-growing, so to get the most out of your garden we would suggest having one summer squash plant allowing you to harvest while waiting for the winter squash to mature.

Here are some of our favorite squash plants:

 Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

WINTER SQUASH

Butternut
Harvest: 110-120 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Slow
Flavor: A smooth nutty flavor that sweetens when cooked.

Did you know that butternut squash is incredibly good for you? One cup of baked butternut squash is rich in vitamins A (from beta carotene), B6, C, and E, as well as magnesium, potassium, and manganese!

Delicata
Harvest: 80-100 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Slow
Flavor: Delicata is commonly compared to a sweet potato.

The delicata squash skin is tender and edible, which makes it quite different than most winter squash. It can be stored for an extended period of time, but not as long as the traditional tough-skinned winter squash.

Spaghetti Squash
Harvest: 90-100 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Slow
Flavor: Don’t let the name fool you, even though the squash resembles spaghetti noodles when it has been cut in half and baked, it does not taste like a paste. It has its own unique, light-nutty flavor.  

Most recipes pair spaghetti squash with red sauce. Try it with a garlic or cream-based sauce as well!

 Golden Zucchini

Golden Zucchini

SUMMER SQUASH

Zucchini
Harvest: 45-55 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Quick
Flavor: Mild and sweet in flavor, this fruit is great at absorbing the flavor it is being paired or seasoned with. Zucchini is wonderful eaten raw, or cooked.

Zucchini is a heavy-yielding plant that typically needs to be harvested a few times a week during peak season. Harvest the sqush when the fruit is 6-8”, to prevent it from becoming woody.

Golden Zucchini
Harvest: 45-55 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Quick
Flavor: Similar in flavor as a classic zucchini, but with a burst of color to lighten up your meal!

Squash blossoms are delicious, and a zucchini plant is the perfect plant to harvest from! Zucchini are prolific growers, so set aside a few flowers to enjoy. Don’t be alarmed if your golden zucchini leaves are slightly yellow in color, this is normal.

 Patty Pan Squash

Patty Pan Squash

Pattypan
Harvest: 50-60 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Quick
Flavor: Buttery flavor, perfect for eating raw or cooked. If you are feeling fancy, let the pattypan grow large, scoop out the inside and use the squash as a soup bowl!

Not as common in the United States, the pattypan squash is known globally by many names including: scallop squash, peter pan squash, sunburst squash, granny squash, custard marrow, custard squash, white squash, button squash and scallopini

Crookneck
Harvest: 55-60 days days from transplant
Growing Speed: Quick
Flavor:  Not to be confused with yellow zucchini, this fruit has a curved neck and a slightly more intense flavor.
The crookneck squash was a important source of food for the American settlers. The crookneck squash was one-third of the "three sisters" group of plants, that all grew together and supported one another (including corn and beans).