Revised 2021: Lisa Barlage, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Originally reviewer: Lydia C. Medeiros, PhD, RD, Specialist, Ohio State University Extension; Original author: Barbara A. Brahm, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension
Squashes are members of the gourd family, which also includes watermelons, cucumbers, muskmelon, pumpkins, and gourds. Squash was a common food of Native Americans. Squash is referenced through many of the writings of the earliest explorers and colonists.
Figure 1. Yellow squash and green zucchini. Photo: Andy M, Pixabay
Pumpkin is originally from South America. The terms “pumpkin” and “squash,” are often used incorrectly in the United States to identify of certain varieties of these vegetables. Squash is available from July through September. October is the big month for harvesting pumpkin, although they are available in September and November.
For information on squash and pumpkin varieties in Ohio, contact your county educator in agriculture and natural resources at Ohio State University Extension, or a master gardener volunteer.
Soft Shelled (Summer Squash)
- Skin should appear fresh, glossy, tender, and free from blemishes. The skin and seeds are eaten.
- Over-developed summer squash has a hard rind, dull appearance, enlarged seeds, and tends to be stringy.
Varieties to look for:
- Crookneck and Straight Neck have delicate yellow, pebbly skin. They are over-ripe when colored gold.
- Zucchinis are dark green, long, straight, and 8–10-inches in length.
- White Bush Scallop and Patty Pan have green flesh with a white tinge, smooth skin, and scalloped edges.
- Cocozelle is similar to zucchini, except smaller with green and yellow stripes.
- Spaghetti Squash has a yellow to golden-yellow skin, light yellow flesh, and is 8–10 inches long and 4–6 inches in diameter. After it’s cooked in water for about 30 minutes its flesh separates into spaghetti-like strands.
Hard Shelled (Winter) Squash
- Should be heavy for its size, indicating more edible flesh.
- Shell should have no cracks, bruises, or decay, and should be firm.
- Avoid squash with black or shriveled stems. Seeds and rind are not typically eaten.
Varieties to look for:
- Pumpkin should be fully ripe with firm rinds, bright orange color, and fairly heavy weight. Pumpkins varieties are available for decorating as well as making pumpkin pie.
- Buttercup is turban shaped, has a fairly smooth shell, and offers a nutty-type flavor with smooth-textured flesh.
- Butternut is gourd shaped with smooth, light beige skin, and has sweet, fine-textured orange flesh.
- Acorn is small, dark green with ridges. Orange colored skin is lower quality.
- Hubbard skin may be golden yellow, greenish-blue, or dark green. Sizes ranges from 10 to 20 pounds.
Due to many variables such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is difficult to give specific recommendations. The recommendations below are approximations.
- 1 pound summer squash = 2–3 servings
- 1 pound winter squash (flesh) = 1 cup cooked
- 1 bushel squash = 40 pounds
- 1 bushel winter squash = 16–20 quarts canned
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2½ cups of a variety of vegetables each day as part of a healthy diet. Squash and pumpkin contain antioxidants, vitamins A and C, some B vitamins, iron, calcium, and fiber. Many winter squash varieties are especially good sources of vitamin A.
- Summer squash - 15 calories per cup
- Winter squash - 65 calories per cup
- Pumpkin - 40 calories per cup
- Do not wash squash before storing. When ready to cook or cut, scrub squash with a vegetable brush under cool running water. Do not use soap, detergent, or bleach because these liquids absorb into the vegetable.
- Summer squash - Best when eaten soon after purchase. To store, refrigerate and use in 3–5 days.
- Winter squash - Store whole in a cool (50 F) dry area. Spaghetti squash keeps for approximately 2 months, others typically last 3 months, and Hubbard squash keeps up to 6 months.
- Cutting winter squash can be difficult. Make sure you have a large, sharp, chef’s knife and a secure cutting board. If possible, cut or poke a few holes in the skin and microwave the whole squash for 5 minutes to soften the rind. Remove from the microwave and trim the blossom and stem ends to create flat surfaces on the ends of the squash. Then sit the squash on one of the flat ends to cut it in half.
Figure 2. Zucchini pumpkin bread. Photo: Andy M, Pixabay
- Prepare only the amount of fresh squash that is planned for use. Freeze extra squash.
- Young tender zucchini is the best option for shredding and freezing for later use. To prepare, wash, grate, and steam blanch in small quantities for 1–2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts for your favorite recipe into containers, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Cool by placing the containers in cold water, then seal and freeze. If watery when thawed, pour out the liquid before using the zucchini.
- To roast pumpkin seeds, separate the seeds from the pulp, rinse thoroughly, lightly toss with vegetable oil and seasonings, and roast until crunchy.
- Slice summer squash into planks, brush with oil, and grill.
- Make thin noodles for spaghetti or sheet noodles for lasagna from summer squash to use in place of pasta.
- Cut summer squash into thick julienne strips, coat with breadcrumbs and seasoning, and then bake into crispy summer squash “fries.”
- Add sliced summer squash to stir fries, soups, casseroles, vegetable trays, salads, and more.
- Winter squash can be cooked or roasted in your oven, slow cooker, microwave, or on the stovetop.
- Winter squash can be made into soup; roasted with sweet or savory seasonings; used for stuffing, pasta fillings or sauces; or pureed into pie filling.
- Add pumpkin to black bean tacos or enchiladas.
- Pumpkin is also perfect for hummus, baked goods, smoothies, and pet treats.
- Smaller winter squash can be stuffed and roasted.
Zucchini Pumpkin Bread
Time: Approximately 1½ hours
- Non-stick spray
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ of a 15 oz. can pumpkin or 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (scant 1 cup)
- ¼ cup apple sauce
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract (regular or imitation)
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup shredded zucchini (~1 large zucchini)
- Before you begin, wash your hands, surfaces, utensils, tops of cans, and vegetables.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray.
- Combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and use a whisk or fork to combine.
- Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
- Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine.
- Gently stir in zucchini to pumpkin mixture, being careful not to over-mix.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Note: To bake muffins instead of a loaf, spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray, fill wells with batter, and bake for 35-40 minutes at 375 F. Do not use muffin-tin liners as the muffins will stick.
For information on preserving squash, contact your local OSU Extension office for the following fact sheets:
- Canning Basics, HYG-5338
- Basics for Canning Vegetables, HYG-5344
- Freezing Vegetables, HYG-5333
- Drying Fruits and Vegetables, HYG-5347
FoodData Central. n.d. U.S. Department of Agriculture (website), accessed July 1, 2021. fdc.nal.usda.gov.
National Center for Home Food Preservation. n.d. University of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences (website). Accessed July 2, 2021. nchfp.uga.edu.
Ohio Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed). n.d. “Recipes, Squash.” Celebrate Your Plate (website). Accessed July 2, 2021.