Top 10 Heirloom Summer Squash to Grow in 2023

Top 10 Heirloom Summer Squash to Grow This Year

If you want something that basically thrives on neglect and produces continuous, huge harvests from midsummer until fall, you’ll definitely want to plant some summer squash in your garden. These veggies are low calorie and full of vitamins, and they are so versatile! You can enjoy summer squash raw, in salads, grilled on the BBQ, baked into breads, and made into relishes and even marmalade!

In fact, some types of summer squash grow so prolifically that giving it away is not enough – you might have to go rogue and sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch!

If you are getting into homesteading or if you simply want to be frugal and not have to buy new seeds or starts every year, why not grow some heirloom or open-pollinated varieties? These varieties, unlike hybrids, are true to seed and you can save the seeds every year. Selecting the seeds from your best plants ensures a strong lineage of genetically identical plants so you never have to worry about a seed shortage or plant shortage ever again!

I know that there are so many heirloom varieties out there that you might not know where to start. But don’t worry – if you want the best heirloom summer squash to grow in your garden this year, you’ve come to the perfect place. In this article, I go over my top 10 best heirloom summer squash to grow. Keep reading to learn more!

Summer Squash vs. Winter Squash – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to summer squash vs. winter squash, there are a few key differences to be aware of:

Summer squash, such as zucchini, is typically harvested when it is young and fresh. You can leave it to grow to massive proportions (especially if you want to save the seeds), but it tends to go woody and lose its flavor. Summer squash is also thinner-skinned and has a higher water content than winter squash. This means it can’t be stored as long as winter squash and should be eaten fairly quickly after harvesting.

Winter squash, such as butternut or pumpkin, takes time to mature on the vine and develop its natural sugars and flavors, and it has a hard, thick rind. The thick skin and lower water content means that it can be stored for quite a long time in a cool, dry spot in your house. Oftentimes, you can keep winter squash, as its name implies, through the winter.

When it comes time to choose between summer squash and winter squash, it really depends on your personal preferences and what you plan to use the squash for. Both summer and winter squash can be eaten fresh, cooked, or canned.

Can Squash Cross Pollinate?

One word of advice when growing multiple types of squash: they can cross-pollinate very easily.

Squash are monoecious plants, meaning they produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. This makes them highly susceptible to cross-pollination when planted nearby other squash species. This can result in some interesting hybrids, but unfortunately, they are not always ideal. If you are growing heirloom summer squash in order to save the seeds, don’t worry! I found that this article is an excellent resource on avoiding cross-pollination between squash types. Some of the tips outlined include knowing which types cross-pollinate with others, covering and hand-pollinating blossoms, and planting squash weeks apart to create a gap between flowering periods.  

1. Early Crookneck Summer Squash

Early Crookneck is one of the most popular heirloom summer squash varieties out there. This is a large, bushy, fast-growing plant. It can spread to 3-4 feet across with large leaves, so give them lots of room. The fruit is bright yellow and meaty and is great when roasted or grilled with some olive oil, sea salt, lemon and herbs. Yum!

Days to Maturity: 50

Best Harvested At: 5-6”

Available at Hoss Tools.

2. Black Beauty Zucchini

Of course, no list is complete without mentioning this beauty! This well-known heirloom zucchini is extremely prolific, and it will continue to produce all through the summer until frost stops it. This heirloom summer squash grows super quickly, so feel free to harvest at any point knowing that you’ll soon get plenty more where that came from! The skin is a gorgeous deep green color with a creamy white flesh inside. You can leave a few to get huge if you want to save some seeds or make a big batch of zucchini relish or marmalade like I do, and if you do, you won’t have to wait very long!

Days to Maturity: 60-70

Best Harvested At: 6-8”

Available at True Leaf Market.

3. Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash

This heirloom patty pan variety dates back to the early 1900s. The fruits are light green on the outside and cream colored on the inside with uniform, scalloped edges all around. The plant itself gets very large, as most summer squash plants do, at about 3-4 feet across. This is widely considered to be one of the best tasting summer squash varieties out there, and I would highly recommend growing it! Kids will love their unique shape and small size. If you ask me, they’re kind of shaped like little UFOs!

Days to Maturity: 50

Best Harvested At: 3-4”

Available at Hoss Tools.

4. Golden Zucchini

Grow this summer squash for a pop of color in your garden! Although it’s not quite as productive as green zucchinis, it’s still a zucchini, which means you’ll still get far too many to deal with! But hey, that’s a good thing, right? At least with this one, the bright golden yellow is easy to spot under the leaves, so you’ll be able to see them when they are ready to harvest.

Days to Maturity: 55-65

Best Harvested At: 6-8”

Available at True Leaf Market.

5. Early Prolific Straightneck

Similar to the Crookneck variety, this is a classic golden heirloom summer squash that has become the “gold standard”, if I may, of squash for the last century. This squash was an All-American Selection winner back in 1938 and it continues to be one of the most popular summer squash varieties of all time. You really can’t go wrong with this one. It’s best to harvest these at 5-7” long when they are tender, but you can wait and harvest them at 12-14” long if you prefer it larger.

Days to Maturity: 48

Best Harvested At: 5-7”

Available at True Leaf Market.

6. Grey Zucchini

This is an Old World heirloom summer squash dating back to the early 1800s. This zucchini has unique striped skin and a shorter, more bulbous shape. Being from the Mediterranean, it is highly heat and drought resistant, and it is also a high-yielding plant that thrives with frequent harvests. The stockier shape makes it great for stuffing.

Days to Maturity: 45-50

Best Harvested At: 6”

Available at True Leaf Market.

7. Early White Bush Scallop

This is another heirloom patty pan variety similar to the Bennings Green Tint Scallop. This heirloom summer squash starts out light green and matures to a creamy white. This variety is a little larger, with fruits reaching about 6-7” in diameter and 3” deep. This is a prolific producer and is quite the eye-catcher, especially for markets. The whole thing is edible, so it is very versatile and can be eaten pretty much in any way you can think of!

Days to Maturity: 55

Best Harvested At: 6-7”

Available at True Leaf Market.

8. Italian Striped Zucchini (Cocozelle)

This is a beautiful light and dark green-striped Italian favorite. It is very versatile and is a great choice for eating fresh, freezing or canning. It has a rich flavor and can be eaten very small or when it’s over a foot long. If you’re looking for a versatile and eye-catching summer squash, I’d recommend the Cocozelle variety!

Days to Maturity: 55

Best Harvested At: 8-12”

Available at True Leaf Market.

9. Vegetable Marrow Green Bush

This is an old-timey heirloom summer squash from England that dates back to the 1800s. It has a longer growing period similar to winter squash, so you’ll want to get started with this one early, and even start the seeds indoors if you have a shorter growing season. The color can vary from pale green to dark green with stripes. This is kind of a versatile squash – it can be picked young to use as a summer squash, or it can be left to mature like a winter squash.

Days to Maturity: 80-100

Best Harvested At: 4-6” young or 10-12” mature

Available at True Leaf Market.

10. Fordhook Zucchini

This is another classic green zucchini that is a vigorous grower and prolific producer. This heirloom summer squash has a rich, deep green outside with a white flesh inside that is good for freezing. As with most zucchinis, this plant thrives when harvested regularly, so don’t worry about saving some to grow huge until the end of the season.         

Days to Maturity: 57

Best Harvested At: 8-12”

Available at True Leaf Market.

Conclusion

I love summer squash because of how easy it is to grow and how abundant the harvest is. You can basically leave it and let it do its thing throughout the summer, and by mid-summer you’ll be bringing in harvests every few weeks!

I’ll admit that I will let a few get really huge if I’m planning to make a big batch of zucchini relish. I’ll just cut off the woody rind at that point, and that way, I can save the seeds from the mature plant for the next gardening season.   

What is your favorite heirloom or open pollinated summer squash? Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re looking to get started with homesteading and organic gardening, make sure to check out our Complete Guide to Organic Gardening and why you should plant heirloom seeds this year.

Thanks for reading!

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