Freshly harvested summer squash
image by mconnors/morguefile.com
Summer squash are long, thin vegetables commonly called zucchinis or yellow squash. Both varieties grow similarly in the garden. Gardeners often include one or both of these cultivars and then enjoy an abundance of squash to harvest by the middle of the summer. Once the summer squash plants are producing vegetables, a gardener must check every day for squash to harvest because the summer squash is most flavorful when small.
Watch the summer squash plants to see when the plants begin to flower. The vegetables will begin to appear soon after the plants bloom. Make sure that the plants stay adequately watered. Place an inch of mulch around the base of the plants to keep the soil moist and cool.
Pick the male summer square flowers to eat raw in salads or to cook in savory side dishes. Harvest only male flowers because female flowers produce vegetables. Male flowers have thin stems and female flowers have thick stems. Female flowers also have a bulge beneath the petals that will become the vegetable. Snip the flowers off the stems early in the day after the dew has evaporated.
Wear garden gloves and harvest summer squash when the squash are between 6 and 8 inches long and 2 inches thick. Use garden shears to snip the squash from the vines.
Place unwashed summer squash into plastic bags and place the bags into a vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. Wash the vegetables immediately before using them. Summer squash keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days.