Summer Squash and Winter Squash: The Difference

Squash summer harvest1

Squash summer harvestThe “summer squash” is a soft-skinned squash.

The “winter squash” is hard-shelled squash.

Summer squash might be more aptly named a “tender squash.” It has moist flesh and a tender skin. Tender, summer squash is harvested steadily from early to late summer. Summer squash is best eaten fresh, either raw, steamed, or sauteed. It will not keep more than a day or two in the refrigerator.

Winter squash is harvested from late summer through autumn and sometimes into early winter. The hard skin and firm flesh of the winter squash make it ideal for curing and storing through the winter–thus “winter squash.” The winter squash is not tasty eating raw but is best used for baking and pies.

At the farm market, if its “squash” you see on the sign–the grower is undoubtedly offering one of the hard-skinned winter squash: the butternut, acorn, buttercup, banana, Hubbard, spaghetti, blue, or red kuri.

If its “zuchinni” or “courgette” you see on the sign–the grower is undoubtedly offering a summer squash. Summer squash varieties include the golden and classic green zucchini, the baby zuchinni, he Costata Romanesca, the Middle Eastern zucchini, the round or globe zucchini, the Tatume, the Korean, the scallop or pattypan, the yellow or summer straightneck, the semi-straigtneck or the Zephyr.

Winter squash harvest time:

Winter squash is harvested 60-110 days after sowing. Winter squash does not ripen further after it is harvested. It is important to pick winter squash only after it has matured. A winter squash will not taste good if it has not matured before harvest.

Summer squash harvest time:

Summer squash is ready for picking at 50-65 days after sowing and is best harvested young–even when it is only half grown, or younger as a baby. A young summer squash is best eaten early when tender.

Zucca, calabaza, and courge are the generic words for squash in Italian, Spanish, and French, respectively. The diminutive forms are zucchini, calabacita, and courgette.

Zucchini and courgette. In Italy and America you will find zucchini at the farm market. In France and Britain, you will find courgette.

When choosing a zucchini or courgette, choose the one that is small to medium in size and has a taut skin. Avoid ones that are soft to the touch or watery.

A small zucchini can be eaten uncooked: sliced, chopped or grated. A medium size zucchini can be steamed or stir fried.


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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