Pattypan Squash: The Versatile Summer Delight

Patty pan squash, the original summer squash, has a rich history that dates back centuries. This shapely and easy-to-grow vegetable has taken on many names as it has spread across the globe. From “cymlings” to “pâtisson” to “button squash,” these delectable veggies have captured the imagination of people from different cultures. Today, they are commonly known as scallop squash, scallopini, or tulip squash, and some even refer to them as flying saucers.

Growing and Cooking Out-Of-This-World Patty Pan Squash
You can harvest patty pan squash as babies, or let them grow to full size. Overgrown patty pan squash become gourds.

The Plethora of Patty Pan Squash Varieties

If you’re looking to grow a vegetable with a deep-rooted heritage, ‘Early White Bush’ is an excellent choice. This variety has been cultivated in gardens for the past three centuries and is the perfect addition to a Native American Three Sisters Garden, along with corn and beans. ‘Benning’s Green Tint’ is another favorite among seed savers, known for its vibrant light green color and vigorous growth. French varieties like ‘Patisson Panache Verte et Blanc’ and ‘Jaun et Verte’ offer a touch of elegance with their white appearance when young and tender. As they mature, these fruits transform into decorative gourds, showcasing hard rinds with dark green stripes.

Growing and Cooking Out-Of-This-World Patty Pan Squash
Colorful ‘Sunburst’ produces heavy crops of tender fruits.

Beautiful hybrids, such as ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Total Eclipse,’ have been bred for their striking colors and exceptional productivity. ‘Sunburst’ boasts yellow and green fruits, while ‘Total Eclipse’ flaunts a dark green hue. Both varieties grow as open bushes, providing an abundance of delightful squash. Mixtures featuring yellow, light green, and dark green fruits can add a vibrant touch to your summer garden.

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Growing and Cooking Out-Of-This-World Patty Pan Squash
Compared to other summer squash, patty pan squash have a dense texture that helps them hold together when cooked.

Cultivating Patty Pan Squash

Like other summer squash, patty pan squash thrives in warm weather, making it ideal for planting from late spring to early summer. With large seeds that germinate quickly in warm soil, there’s no need to start them indoors. Whether you prefer rows or hills, a mere three to four plants will yield a bountiful crop of these beautiful squash. Remember to harvest them at least twice a week to enjoy them at their tender, flavorful best. When picking, use clippers to cut the fruits, leaving a short stub of the green stem attached.

Growing and Cooking Out-Of-This-World Patty Pan Squash
After blanching, hollowed-out patty pan squash are quickly chilled before freezing.

The sprawling bushes of patty pan squash resemble yellow crookneck squash in their growth habit. However, they are slightly less appealing to squash vine borers and exhibit greater resistance to powdery mildew compared to most summer squash varieties. Although the plants may succumb to disease, insects, or exhaustion later in the season, you can expect a harvest season that lasts approximately a month, beginning around 60 days after planting.

Exploring the Culinary Possibilities

Patty pan squash has a long-standing culinary tradition. Historically, it was mashed with butter and cream after being cooked until soft, resembling the preparation of Easter Simnel cake. Another popular method involved breading and frying the squash, similar to eggplant dishes. The dense texture of patty pan squash allows it to hold its shape when roasted, air-fried, or used for grilling, making it a versatile cooking ingredient.

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For those seeking unique culinary experiences, patty pans are perfect for stuffing with grains, meats, or even pasta. To prepare them for stuffing, create a flat base by cutting across the stem end, then use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out about half of the flesh. Sprinkle some salt on the prepared squash and set it aside to drain while you prepare the filling.

When your patty pan squash harvest exceeds your immediate needs, consider making pickle relish or carving them into decorative “boats” to freeze and enjoy during the winter months. These fluted edible bowls add a touch of elegance and fun to any holiday celebration.

Patty pan squash, with its rich history and delightful versatility, is a summer delicacy that offers endless possibilities in the kitchen. Start growing your own crop of these fascinating squashes and embark on a culinary adventure that spans centuries.

For more information on patty pan squash, visit the Ames Farm Center.