There’s more to summer squash than zucchini.
Sure, you probably have a lot of favorite uses for the familiar green zucchini and its cousin, yellow squash. Mild and crisp, zucchini is great grilled, baked, sautéed with other vegetables, made into a casserole or baked into bread. Yellow squash is good in almost as many ways.
But why limit your table to those? There are a lot of other summer squash varieties out there to try – tiny pattypan, bright yellow goldbar, the Mexican favorite chayote.
No matter the type, summer squash is picked when it’s younger, so the texture is more tender. These don’t develop the harder rind of earthy winter squash varieties like acorn and butternut squash –you can eat the skin so you don’t have to peel them. They also tend to have a lighter, brighter flavor than those heartier fall and winter types. Finally, for the most part, they cook quickly; a few minutes on the grill or in the sauté pan, and that’s all it takes.
Most of the more exotic varieties can be substituted in your favorite zucchini or yellow squash recipe.
Goldbar: Looks just like zucchini, but, like the name implies, it has a smooth, golden yellow skin. It tastes much like a zucchini, except with a touch of the sweetness of a yellow squash. Great on the grill, or sautéed with onions and garlic.
Pattypan: Small and flat, with fluted edges, the pattypan is mildly flavored, and tastes similar to yellow squash. You can steam, roast or grill them whole, though they cook more uniformly if you halve them first. Pattypans can also be sliced and sautéed, or used in any recipe that calls for other summer squash. Because they’re cute and little, even kids who want little to do with vegetables may be willing to try these.
Sunburst: A hybrid cousin of the pattypan, this small squash is golden yellow in color and has the same scalloped edges. Use it as you’d use pattypan.
Baby zucchini: Just what it sounds like, these are zucchini in miniatures, usually just two or three inches long. Their skin is even softer and their flavor even milder than grown-up zucchini, so they can be eaten sliced or grated raw in salads, in addition to being used in any way you’d use a full-size zucchini.
Chayote: Popular in Mexico, where it’s eaten raw in salads, kind of like a cucumber, or stuffed with meat or cheese mixtures and then baked. Chayote has a very mild flavor and a crisper texture than most other summer squashes. Unlike other summer varieties, you may prefer to peel it, as the skin may be stringy, and it can be cooked for longer periods and retain its texture. You may know it by another name, mirliton.