Nothing brightens up the kitchen like some summer squashes. This is their peak month, when these beauties are available in a dazzling variety of shapes and colours. We’re including courgettes, too, in this family – closely related and cooked in much the same way.
English courgettes and squashes are abundant right now and thrived in the recent burst of sunshine. Over the last few years, many growers have branched out from just courgettes and now offer a wide range of different varieties of summer squash. Patty pans, our headline picture, are a case in point. These would have been hard to find a decade ago. Other varieties to look out for include Sunburst, Baby Bear and Eight Ball. Delicata (the cylindrical squash below) is technically a summer squash, too, but note that its skin is harder than most and will need peeling.
Another innovation in this category has been in the harvest size. Following in the wake of the trend for baby veg, growers are also supplying smaller sizes such as baby courgettes, which are often cooked whole.
In general, summer squashes have thinner skin than winter squashes. The latter are harvested later in the season and can be stored for far longer.
Note that courgette flowers are a premium crop. Some growers specialise in producing these, using varieties bred for this purpose. The same goes for marrows – a larger sister to the courgette.
Uses in the Kitchen
Summer squashes are often roasted, often with a dry rub of spices. Fresh thyme is also an effective pairing. Try adding breadcrumbs at the end of the cooking for extra crunch. Patty pans can be sliced in half and stuffed, or even roasted whole.
For courgettes, shaving raw into ribbons makes for an impressive salad. Make sure you add dressings at the last moment to preserve their crunch. Courgette spaghetti (a.k.a. courgetti) is another on trend approach in place of pasta – excellent as a gluten free option. Grilling courgettes, of course, is the classic treatment. Smaller specimens offer more creative options, for example sliced once down the middle.
Don’t forget that squash seeds can be roasted – a touch of tamari adds a savoury note. Squash flowers can be stuffed and baked. My favourite is ricotta cheese and a grating of lemon zest. Try using a tempura batter.