Summer Squash: Harvest Early and Often

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20160713A.JPGSummer squash such as zucchini and pattypan produce an exceptional number of fruits, enough to share with the whole neighborhood… or better yet, to give to a food bank! But you have to harvest them every 3 or 4 days to keep them producing: as soon as some fruit on the plant begin to mature, production will stop.

At any rate, if you leave summer squash on the plant too long, seeds begin to form and they loose their tender taste.

Summer squash are a total contrast to winter squash, such as pumpkins, sphaghetti squash and buttercup squash, which you let fully mature and therefore harvest it in the fall. But then you eat summer squash skin and all, while they’re still young and tender, while you grow winter squash for the thick flesh that forms over time.

The Right Size

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A mix of summer squashes.

In general, you can judge the harvest readiness of a summer squash by its size. Harvest zucchinis, straight necks and crooked necks when they are about 6 to 7 inches (15-18 cm) long, at most 8 inches (20 cm), round zucchini when they are 3 to 4 inches (7-10 cm) in diameter and patty pans when they reach 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) in diameter.

Harvest summer squash by breaking the fruit free at its base, bending its stem and giving a slight twist, or by cutting through the stem with a knife. Do wear gloves: some squash have stems prickly enough to scratch and irritate your skin.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and harvest!

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