Summer Squashes

Summer Squashes

Summer Squashes

Squeeze these squashes into your garden this summer.

Squashes might not be the first thing you think about when you think of summer, but there are so many great squashes that you can grow, and which can go in everything from salads to wraps to roasts and stews (yes, you can eat stews in summer). They also go terrifically with a braai. Of all the varieties available to us, the most popular squashes have to be butternuts and gems, but cast your eyes a little further and you’ll almost definitely find a new favourite. Here are some of ours:

‘Caserta’ squash

A variety of baby marrow that is available from Mayford Seeds, this familiar squash is a great producer and is so easy to grow. The long, cylindrical or club-shaped fruit grow on an open semi-bush plant that won’t take over your garden. There are a number of reasons why this variety is so popular – a big harvest, easy to grow, tasty fruit and, unlike some of the others, readily available. While this marrow may look like the ones you buy at the supermarket, ‘Caserta’ is actually an heirloom variety with far more flavour. If you want to try a new recipe, try this marrow in tempura batter – the recipe is below. The seeds will germinate quickly, in just over a week, and the fruit will be ready for harvest at about 45 days.

Crookneck Early Squash

A fast-growing squash, this is an unusual-looking heirloom variety that produces tasty, unique squashes in early summer. The lemon-yellow fruit grow to about 15cm long, and the fairly compact (for a squash) plant produces prolifically. Pick regularly and the plant will carry on producing fruit, which can be steamed with nutmeg, boiled or even fried. Harvest when the squashes are still immature (under 15cm), before the skin gets too hard. The plant grows to about 1m wide and 60cm high.

Golden Zucchini

The yellow or golden zucchini produces fruit that looks the same as the regular green zucchini (marrow), but with a bright yellow skin. The flavour is sweeter than the normal green version, which makes it a good option to try with younger veggie eaters. It can be used in salads or as any zucchini is used. The plant of this open-pollinated heirloom variety is bush-like, so it doesn’t take over the whole garden. Fruit will be harvestable anywhere from 40 – 60 days after seeds are planted.

Ronde de Nice Squash

A French heirloom squash, Ronde de Nice is a round marrow that is perfect for harvesting as a baby veg. The skin is soft and they have a lovely, delicate flavour that goes beautifully with melted butter and a touch of seasoning. The plant is easy to grow and forms a bush of about 60 – 90cm high and about 60cm wide. Planted in early spring or even later, the plants take 45 – 50 days to produce, and once started they are prolific. This is a good candidate for a smaller garden and can even be grown in containers.

Jaune et Verte

This very ornamental scalloped squash is strikingly variegated in cream and white, while the plant itself is easy to grow and produces a seemingly never-ending supply of fruit. To eat it at its best, harvest when the squashes are still young – they are delicious. If left to get older, the fruit is tailor-made for baking in the oven. A bush variety of squash, this grows easily and produces fruit in under 50 days.

Yugoslavian Finger Fruit

We end off with the craziest looking squash that we could find (and that is available locally, albeit in limited supply). This gem of a squash looks more like some exotic tropical fruit than a humble squash, but when you get past the conspicuous looks you will recognise the flavour as similar to a patty pan. The 8 – 10 little fingers make this a wonderful conversation starter at the dinner table, and mature ones can actually be dried for ornaments. That’s a waste though, because eating them while still young is just such a treat. As with many of the other squashes here, their unusual appearance makes them useful as ornamentals in the garden, so you’d be a trifle silly not to plant at least one summer squash this year. This is a vining plant, so make sure you have space for it. 

Paul’s tips for growing squash

As the commercial manager at MayFord Seeds, Paul has first-hand knowledge on how to grow the prefect squashes from seed:
When you say squashes, you usually think of gem squashes, which are a firm South African favourite. There are, in fact, many squash varieties masquerading under different names, such as gem, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, baby marrow and Hubbard, as well as some gourds. They are also known as fruit veg or summer squashes, and should all be sown right now during spring and summer. Most squashes need from 45 – 90 or more days to grow from sowing to harvest, so if we are sowing in spring, we need to think about what we will eat fresh from the garden in late spring through summer to autumn. Never sow the whole seed packet at once, as it contains enough seed for multiple plants and each plant bears numerous fruit, so rather sow in 14-day intervals to achieve a continuous harvest. Look out for the two cutest in the range, those being baby butternut and baby acorn squash, which are perfectly sized as a serving for one person. Think about what you are going to plant, how much and where, and work out your planting area. Remember that squashes are relatively large fruit. Interestingly, aside from baby marrows, nearly all squashes have a similar classic deep-orange colour, and the good news is that sowing and planting of all squashes is dead easy, and it’s exactly the same for all varieties! All squash seed should be sown directly into the soil, in what we call a basin. Gather soil into a mound and create a depression or basin, much like pushing a dinner plate into a pile of sand to create a crater. Sow six seeds in a circle along the peaks of the crater and plant them 2cm deep. Add water, ensuring that you keep the seeds moist. After 6 weeks, thin out to three pants per basin, and sit back and wait for harvest time! www.mayford.co.za


All members of the squash family are heavy feeders and so need regular applications of a slow-release organic fertiliser as well as enough water to enable them to reach their producing potential. Try to water them at the stems and not on the leaves to avoid mildew and other fungal problems. They love heat and sun and will grow quickly, so are a great plant for getting youngsters interested in the process of growing food from scratch. When harvesting, cut the fruit off the plant using sharp, clean secateurs or a sharp knife. The thick stalks make pulling the fruit off harmful to the plant.

Zucchini fries

Dip zucchini chips into tempura batter to make a light and crispy addition to any dish. Serve simply with mayonnaise or spice up with a garlicky tzatziki or freshly made tomato sauce.

  • 2 – 3 medium zucchinis
  • Vegetable oil for shallow frying
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup soda water or sparkling mineral
  • water

Cut the zucchinis into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on the size, and then into batons – a potato-chip size is easier to pick up and dip. You can make them thick or skinny, whichever you prefer. In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt and slowly add the soda water, mixing with a fork. Mix until just combined – any lumps will turn into crispy bits when fried, so in this case lumps are good. Heat the vegetable oil and dip each baton into the batter and then put them into the hot oil. Cook in batches for 3 – 4 minutes until crisp and golden. Season with salt as they come out the oil and drain on kitchen towel before serving hot with the dip of your choice.

The Gardener